Rendang, the 'taste of Indonesia', is at its peak on Eid al-Fitr

JAKARTA: Anthony Bourdain only needed one bite of rendang, Indonesia's famous meat dish: „I could eat that all day.”

The world-renowned chef and storyteller traveled to Indonesia for a 2018 episode of his travel show “Parts Unknown,” which begins at a restaurant serving traditional dishes from West Sumatra.

After he's tasted the rendang, Bourdain is seen reaching for another serving — as Indonesians do, though few can resist its rich, aromatic flavor.

Sweet, savory and spicy at the same time, this slow-cooked and spicy meat dish is usually served during weddings, dinners with important guests and special occasions such as Lebaran – the Indonesian name for Eid al-Fitr, which signifies the end. Ramadan.

“Many spices are used to make rendang. It's red chili, onion, garlic, cloves, cumin, star anise, then ginger, galangal … but the main ingredient is coconut milk,” said Rony Nugroho Vidianto, Executive Sous Chef of JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta.

“I usually cook rendang for six hours, which is the minimum. Can't be less than that.”

The cooking time ensures that the meat – traditionally beef – becomes tender. The oils and juices will come out after a couple of hours, but the meat will take a few more to absorb the ingredients and achieve the desired texture.

„We have to do it on a small fire. We keep stirring it every two minutes,” Vidianto said. „Let the coconut milk be absorbed by the meat.”

Some of the earliest written records of Rendang date from the early 16th century, when traders from the Minangkabau tribe of West Sumatra began trading with other islands and needed to secure food for long sea voyages.

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The word „Rendang” comes from „Marantang” which is a slow cooking technique that gives the meat a long shelf life.

Officially recognized by the Indonesian government as one of the country's five national dishes, it is on CNN's list of the World's 50 Best Foods.

“The taste is unique, rich, simply great,” says Khairisi Siyadi, a native of West Sumatra who lives in the Indonesian capital.

„At home, we'll definitely have it.”

For many, the gravy alone carries the full-bodied texture and flavor of rendang, making it the ultimate comfort food and a favorite dish for Indonesians wherever they are.

„Even without meat, we can eat it with rice, it's already delicious,” said Jakarta resident Ilfa Gurniati.

„Rendang is a taste of Indonesia.”

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