We Think Everyone Should Make This Rendang Jamur (Mushroom Rendang)


Rendang is considered one of Indonesia's most treasured foods. Even though it originated with the Minangkabau people in West Sumatra, families throughout the archipelago have their own versions of this richly spiced dish. It's often made with beef, but this vegetarian version leans into the meaty texture of oyster mushrooms (although you can use whatever mushrooms you can find). The contributing editor who tested this recipe just gushed about how delicious this was, writing in her notes that she hoped everyone would try it—so we hope you do!

Rendang Jampur (Mushroom Rendang) on brown rice
Photo: Jen Causey (Photo); Emily Nabors Hall (Food); Josh Hoggle (Props)
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins

I haven't eaten my mother's rendang since I gave up eating red meat two decades ago.

This deeply flavorful Indonesian dish involves slow-cooking beef in coconut milk with herbs and spices (think turmeric, lemongrass, galangal and chiles) until caramelized. It's no wonder that it was voted the world's best food by CNN readers.

Traditionally, rendang is served at selamatan, a communal meal that celebrates a happy occasion like a baby's birth or a wedding. It is also a requisite dish during Lebaran, what Indonesians call Eid al-Fitr.

Similarly, my Indonesian-Chinese mum, Julia, made rendang for special occasions. My two siblings and I grew up in Singapore and, despite living abroad, my mum made it a point to keep us connected to our culture. We spoke our mother tongue at home, we abided by our cultural traditions, and most importantly of all, we ate home-cooked Indonesian food daily.

One of my favorites was rendang, which originated in the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra and has since spread across the Indonesian archipelago. The dish likely evolved from a need to preserve freshly killed buffalo meat in the heat of Indonesia's tropical climate with no refrigeration. It gets its name from merendang, the technique of slow-cooking cubes of meat in spiced coconut milk. After about four hours, the water is removed , leaving a robust oil that cooks the meat until it's quite blackened and dry and infuses it with rich, succulent flavors.

You'll find as many rendang recipes as you'll find cooks. Some versions are brothy like other Southeast Asian curries; others are cooked down until the coconut milk mixture is a thick, redwood-brown gravy. But the most traditional version is a somewhat-dry dish that has been cooked until most of the coconut milk has evaporated and the meat is coated with a very tasty coffee-brown residue called blondo.

As a college student, my mum didn't like the rendang served at restaurants. "It was so dry," she told me. So she started making rendang at home using a cookbook recipe combined with tips from family and friends. And what she created was a winner, beloved by everyone—friends, acquaintances and patrons at her former restaurant alike. And I didn't realize how much I missed it until I went back to Indonesia last summer with her to research my upcoming Indonesian cookbook.

During that trip, I sampled a variety of rendang dishes and discovered that my mum's rendang is quite different from everyone else's. My mum doesn't add the krisik (shredded fresh coconut that's toasted and pounded into a "butter") used as a thickener in many renditions (because she doesn't like it). She stops cooking it when it's still saucy. Plus, her beef and potato combo is definitely not the norm!

But the highlight of my trip was reconnecting with rendang in vegan form.

In Central Java, I met with acclaimed chef Dewi Novita Sari. Dewi and her husband, Dadang Herry Murpiyanto, own Little Garden, a delightful plant-based restaurant set among rice fields in Yogyakarta. Dewi welcomed me into her home kitchen and taught me how to make rendang with oyster mushrooms (rendang jamur). A meatless rendang is not unusual, said Dewi, who learned to cook from her grandmother. In fact, plant-based dishes were very much a part of her childhood diet growing up in a small village on the outskirts of Yogya.

More research revealed that even though buffalo meat was the original choice for rendang, other variants include poultry, ferns, jackfruit, eel, cassava and the most common today, beef.

Except for the main ingredient, Dewi's recipe is similar to what I ate growing up in many ways. When I came home, I used her recipe as a base and incorporated elements from my mum's to create a mushroom rendang recipe all my own. I used to feel a twinge of guilt for not following my mum's recipes to a T. However, I've since realized that there's nothing wrong with taking a traditional recipe off tangent. That's what my mum did. So why can't I?


  • 2 medium shallots, coarsely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed

  • ¼ cup chili paste, such as sambal oelek, or to taste

  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil, such as coconut or avocado

  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns or black peppercorns, coarsely ground

  • 1 (2 inch) cinnamon stick

  • 3 star anise

  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, shredded into strips with your fingers

  • 1 (13-ounce) can coconut milk mixed with 1/2 cup water

  • ¼ cup tamarind water (see Notes) or 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed

  • 4 makrut lime leaves (see Notes; optional)

  • 2 (1/2-inch) slices galangal (see Notes) or fresh ginger

  • 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (see Notes) or dark brown sugar

  • 2 cups hot cooked jasmine rice


  1. Pulse shallots, garlic, chili paste and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small food processor or blender until it's the texture of oatmeal, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. (Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle.)

  2. Heat oil in a large flat-bottom wok or skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the shallot mixture, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and star anise; cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is very fragrant and has turned a few shades darker, 5 to 7 minutes. (Reduce the heat if the paste is browning too fast; you don't want the paste to burn.) Once the moisture has evaporated, the ingredients will separate from the oil. The paste is now ready for the next step.

  3. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with the spice paste. Add coconut milk-water mixture, tamarind water (or lime juice), lemongrass, lime leaves (if using) galangal (or ginger), sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly so the coconut milk doesn't split. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated, forming a thick gravy, and oil pools on the surface of the rendang, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Toward the end of cooking, stir more frequently so the mixture doesn't stick.

  4. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Fish out and discard the whole herbs and spices, or leave them in for a rustic presentation. Serve over rice.


To make tamarind water, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons seedless "wet" tamarind pulp with 1/4 cup hot water. Stir and pour through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract the liquid. Reserve the liquid and discard the solids. Tamarind in this form is sold in 1-pound plastic packages at Asian markets. If tamarind concentrate is all you can find, that is fine but you may have to use up to twice as much. Taste as you go.

Makrut lime leaves lend lemony and floral notes to Southeast Asian dishes. Find the leaves fresh, frozen or jarred in Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets.

Galangal is a rhizome that looks like ginger but has a peppery, citrusy flavor. Look for it in the produce department of well-stocked supermarkets or Asian markets.

Coconut palm sugar, a mildly caramel-flavored sweetener popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, is made from the sap of coconut palm trees. The sap is harvested from the flower bud stem of the trees and evaporated in large woks before being left to solidify. You will find it in granulated and solid form in Asian markets and online.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

480 Calories
28g Fat
56g Carbs
9g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 480
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 56g 20%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 12g
Added Sugars 8g 16%
Protein 9g 18%
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 19g 95%
Vitamin A 56IU 1%
Vitamin C 5mg 6%
Vitamin D 33IU 8%
Vitamin E 1mg 9%
Folate 64mcg 16%
Vitamin K 5mcg 4%
Sodium 798mg 35%
Calcium 47mg 4%
Iron 6mg 33%
Magnesium 70mg 17%
Potassium 818mg 17%
Zinc 2mg 18%
Omega 3 1g

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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