Every month I make a favorite dish for one of the readers of the monthly magazine Moesson.
Marie Thérèse asks for a Dendeng Blado through Moesson’s Facebook page. This spicy and crunchy beef dish is originally from Sumatra, Indonesia. It is genuine Padang food from the Minangkabau people. The ‘dried’ meat lasts longer and was the perfect food for the Minangkabau to take with them on their travels.
A sauce of onions and chili peppers is served to cover the crispy fried beef. This sauce should not be too wet but must stick well to the meat.
After some research in my old cookbooks and watching modern versions of Dendeng Blado online, I’ve made this recipe for you.
It is enough for 2-3 people and is finished in 2,5 hours.
600 grams of lean beef
10 salam leaves (Asian bay leaf)
4 cloves of garlic
4 medium-sized onions
1 teaspoon of laos (galangal)
1 teaspoon of ketumbar (coriander)
1,5 teaspoon of salt
1/4 disc gula Jawa (or 2 teaspoons of sugar)
2 red chili peppers
1 teaspoon of tamarind (or 1 teaspoon of vinegar)
4-centimeter ginger root
I have chosen the leanest beef at my supermarket. The beef is not fat and that works well with dendeng. When I make rendang I look for fat beef, it makes the rendang tender. But lean beef is best for this crispy dish. If there is too much fat in the beef the pieces fall apart when you fry them.
Cut the meat
I start by cutting the meat into manageable pieces; not too big and not too small. I place the knife diagonally in the meat and make slices of 2-3 cm thickness. The slices become thin at the edges and that will make crunchy sides.
The meat will shrink due to cooking and frying. So keep that in mind. You also have to hit the meat to make it a bit flatter. Better to start not too thin.
The meat must first be cooked. The packaging says that it needs 4 hours, but that is for tender (falling apart) meat for Dutch stew ;-). I halve the cooking time and let my meat cook for 1,5 – 2 hours in a spicy stock.
I place the pieces of meat in the pan and add enough water for them to be just under.
I add half the salt.
Then 2 sliced onions and 2 finely chopped (or crushed) garlic cloves.
A teaspoon of tamarind (asem) goes in too. If you do not have tamarind, use a teaspoon of vinegar.
A piece of ginger root of about 4 centimeters cut in half (so that it gives a lot of flavor)
5 salam leaves (Asian bay leaf)
1 whole chili pepper (not necessarely cut open, but you can if you like more spiciness).
1/2 teaspoon laos (galangal) powder (you can also use fresh laos root – about 4 centimeters)
1/2 teaspoon of ketumbar (coriander seeds powder)
I bring this to the boil and let it simmer slowly with the lid on for 1,5 to 2 hours.
I immediately start the sauce because it has to be a ‘dry sauce’. Definitely not too wet. Also, the taste of the sauce gets better over time.
I cut two onions in the direction of the fibers (that you get onion pieces the shape of a crescent moon). I think this size and shape works better in a mortar than onion cubes.
I rub the onions with the garlic. I leave a handful of sliced onions unrubbed to keep some texture in the sauce later.
I add tomatoes to the sauce. Of course, you can add more hot peppers, but I do not like that. My sauce is spicy, but also tender enough so you can taste the meat well.
Salam leaf is Asian bay leaf. This dendeng blado needs 10 leaves in total. That sounds a lot, but it really makes a difference in flavor and it is not overwhelming.
Like ordinary bay leaves, you never cut salam. Salam gives everything that specific authentic smell and taste. I buy salam from the freezer at my local Asian food store.
For the balance in taste, there must also be some sweetness in the sauce. A quarter of Javanese sugar (gula Jawa) is delicious. You can use regular sugar too; about two teaspoons.
Coriander and laos
The rest of the coriander powder and laos (galangal) go through the sauce. I love these spices. The laos gives a lot of umami flavor and the coriander is a fresh touch.
I rub half of the sliced onions and two garlic cloves together with the chili in my cobek (mortar). During the rubbing, I add the rest of the salt. The sauce needs salt of course, but it also helps ‘to grind’ the onions.
I take the skin of the tomatoes by pouring hot water over them and leave them to soak for 1 minute. Then I pull off the skin easily.
Skinless tomatoes make the sauce even more creamy but it is not absolutely necessary. So if you do not want to bother, then don’t ;-).
Then I fry the herb paste from my mortar in two tablespoons of oil until the onions turn yellow. I add the rest of the sliced onions together with the salam leaves, the powdered herbs and the 1/4 block of gula Jawa. That will slowly melt in the sauce.
When this mix has softened, the peeled tomatoes can go through.
I let everything simmer for a few minutes until most of the moisture has evaporated and everything looks nice and tender. Then I turn the gas off and I leave it in the hot pan to cool a bit. The moisture has a chance to evaporate even more and the ‘sauce’ becomes sticky.
Back to the meat. The pieces of meat are tender and seem very soft when I lift them from the stock, but that is normal (and they will soon become firmer).
I carefully remove them with a spade because they must not fall apart.
Now I let them cool. This immediately makes them firmer. I give everything 10 minutes to recover before I give them a ‘dendeng’ ;-).
I use a wooden ulekan for ‘hitting’. I bought this one in Burma, but a stone ulekan works well too. If you do not have an instrument like this just use a wooden spoon, that works fine too.
You do not have to hit hard because then your meat will break too much. By hitting it, the pieces of meat will be slightly thinner and a bit more condensed; this will fry nicely.
I warm up sunflower oil in a small pan. I fry 1 or 2 pieces at the same time. No more, otherwise the oil cools too quickly. The oil must not be too hot, otherwise, the meat turns too dark too quickly.
For 30 seconds per piece, I fry my meat until dark brown in color.
This picture shows the difference in color. That’s what I’m looking for. I let the strips of meat drain first and then pat them dry with some kitchen paper.
I place everything neatly on a plate and scoop my lovely, spicy sauce on top. Before serving, I squeeze a quarter of a lime over everything and cut the rest of the (half) lime into wedges. Lime is delicious in this dendeng blado.
You can also mix the meat with the sauce, but I think it looks nice this way. Now it is clearly visible how crunchy the meat is.
The other recipes that I’ve made earlier for Magazine Moesson can be found here.