Vegetarian Rendang (served as Nasi Lemak)

Nasi Lemak

I love rendang of all forms, and always feel sad for my vegetarian husband who has never had the pleasure of sampling this lemongrass and lime delight. Suprisingly for someone who is widely known as a curry fiend, this was my first rendang. My recipe is adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s amazing Rendang Daging, and is incredibly easy. The only real skill you need is patience, as it needs a lot of cooking time to develop its characteristic caramelised – almost chocolatey – flavour.

The only thing to serve rendang with is coconut rice. Once you’ve gone to the trouble to make these two items, it’s really not much of a stretch to add some other traditional accompaniments to create Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak might be in my top 5 all-time favourite dishes and I’ve tried thousands of them. Across Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand they taste a little different, but they always feel like a little ceremony full of flavour firecrackers. I have added the extra steps below the recipe should you feel inspired.

This dish is worth the waiting time lovely readers. I would love to hear about your versions, and any delicious accompaniments you serve up. Memasak gembira!

  • Makes: 6 serves
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1.5 hours
  • Wine match: A cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc



  • 8 small eschallots
  • 4 long red chillies, de-seeded
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass (white parts only)
  • 2.5cm piece ginger
  • 2.5cm piece galangal


  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, pounded
  • 275gm (1 cup) coconut cream
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp beef flavoured stock, e.g. Massel
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar, gula melaka or brown sugar
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut, lightly toasted in a frying pan
  • 6 to 8 kaffir lime leaves, sliced into paper-thin strips
  • 500gm new potatoes, peeled
  • 500gm sweet potato, peeled and chopped into pieces the same size as new potatoes


To make the masala liquidize or blend all ingredients, or pound them into a paste with a mortar and pestle.

In a large deep pot heat the oil then add the masala, cardamom, cloves and star anise. Fry on a high heat until fragrant, then add all other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5 hours,  stirring every 15 minutes or so.

The rendang can be served simply with plain rice, or as part of a vegetarian Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is coconut rice served with a range of little accompaniments. This is a wholly vegetarian version.

To make 2 serves of coconut rice, pop 1 cup of jasmine rice, 100mL coconut cream, 1 cm ginger, 1 knotted pandan leaf (or 1 vanilla pod) and 2 cups water into a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Maintain a boil for 10 minutes then remove from heat. Leave in the pot to steam for a further 20 minutes.

Place 1/2 cup of rice in the centre of each plate and arrange the rendang and other accompaniments around it. I like raw cucumber, boiled egg, papadam or rice crackers, a tbsp salty peanuts and another hot and sour dish. Pictured above are a few runner beans stir-fried in 2 cloves of garlic and 1 tbsp vegetarian sambal oelek.

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Categories: Embarrassingly Easy, Vegetarian


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4 Comments on “Vegetarian Rendang (served as Nasi Lemak)”

  1. Mark
    April 23, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    I’ve eaten beef rendang and would now like to make the vegetarian variation for friends. The flavour makes this a truly scrumpy curry and personal fav. I’ve never cooked potatoes for the length of time recommended above in a pot, only baked in an oven, and don’t understand how they avoid being mush by the end of the cooking time? Be great to get a tip on this.

    • April 30, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Hi there Mark, great question. It works because they’re being cooked at a lower temperature, and not being boiled in water, which creates a different cooking temperature and chemical reaction. The thing that makes this vego version work is that over the cooking time, a bit of the potato will fall apart and meld with the sauce to thicken it. Also a bonus. If you give it a try I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Happy cooking!

  2. Norlinna
    December 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Hi Beck, i’m a long time asian vegetarian who cannot cook asian dishes (unfortunately, as i left asia in my early teens) but who is always craving and longing for mum’s spicy malay cooking!! So about 3 years ago, i started going on youtube to check out a few different recipes (and salivating over some of them…couldn’t helped it, they brought back memories!!!) and ringing mum up for her versions of those dishes.. Why don’t i just ring mum in the first place? Well because i’m not a cook and as a visual person, when comes to asian cooking i need to see how it’s done! Anyway, yesterday i made potato rendang the first time for xmas dinner. I made nasi minyak to go with it though. The recipe was a cross between mum’s, youtubers and my instinct..i used slightly medium sized potatoes cut in half, shallow fry them for a few minutes, drained then add into the fragrant cooked rempah before adding the coconut cream…turned out good i must say..even younger daughter said it was yum;->


  1. What’s cooking… | The Witchen Kizz - October 2, 2012

    […] I’m making my lovely husband Nasi Lemak tonight which means the crafting of a vegetarian rendang. These are my ingredients for the spice paste – check out that booty of gorgeous fresh lemongrass! Go to recipe >>> […]

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