Last year, CNN tweeted "Beef Rendang" as a curry dish in "Malaysia and Indonesia'; you can imagine how Netizens from Malaysia and Indonesia roared protecting their favorite national dish: "Rendang is NOT curry!" said many.
This is the second time south East Asian foodies came to defend the dish since one Masterchef judge complained about the contestant's chicken rendang, "the skin is not crispy enough!'
These are not the only times that this flavorful meat dish made international fame. In 2011 and 2017, Redang was named in CNN's "World's 50 Most Delicious Foods" and "World's 50 Best Foods".
Back home in Asia, however, Redang is known as an unhealthy sinful dish. How is that so?
Let's break it down.
Redang is a meat dish simmered for hours in coconut milk and a mixture of spices. Every chef in the region has their secret redang recipes coming from the grandmothers, and you may find some slight variations in spices used in the different areas. It is commonly made with beef, but lamb, chicken, or duck can also be used.
Traditionally, it is a high-calorie dish. Fattier cuts of meat are used so that it stays tender throughout the hours of simmering; spices are stir-fried in oil before cooking, and the coconut milk used is always to blame for the dish's high saturated fat content.
But if you look at the recipes, you will notice that it is a wholesome, hearty dish made from whole ingredients with layers of flavors coming from fresh herbs and spices.
Coconut milk is high in fat and calorie; but, it has also gained popularity in the health community in recent years as an alternative to dairy. While studies are ongoing, there are studies demonstrating coconut milk's health benefits:
It May Help Lower LDL or "Bad" Cholesterol
Several different studies that used coconut milk, oil, or flakes found improvements on LDL cholesterol (also known as the "bad" cholesterol) and HDL cholesterol (known as the "good" cholesterol) levels.
It May Help Promote Weight Loss
While it is high in fat, coconut milk contains a high percentage of MCT, medium-chain triglyceride, and MCT has shown a promising impact on weight loss. Research suggests that MCT may reduce appetite hence lower overall calorie intake, and it may temporarily boost calorie expenditure and fat burning.
It May Boost Immunity
Not only is coconut milk a good source of minerals essential to health, but it also contains lauric acid, which has demonstrated its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits in animal studies.
A Round-Up on Coconut Milk in Rendang Dishes
Coconut milk is easily found in smoothies, supermarkets, and health food stores. It can be an excellent alternative for those staying away from dairy milk; however, it is naturally higher in sugar and saturated fat. Even though we now know that different sources of saturated fat affect the body differently in people, your lifestyle and the amount of your total fat intake still matter.
Enjoy the dish in moderation and keep up your active lifestyle.
Next up - Herbs & Spices
Most home cooks would frown upon pre-mixed pastes and proudly prepare their rendang from scratch using only the best herbs and spices. In Part 2, we will look at the extraordinary health properties that these herbs bring!
Don't forget to check to try Umami Chefs' special Lamb Rendang!