Besengek Daging (Beef in Assorted Spices)

Besengek Daging (Beef in Assorted Spices).jpg

This fragrant, spicy dish reheats wonderfully. Freeze remaining coconut milk for another use. Tamarind can be bought in many different forms. I prefer the tamarind concentrate found in Asian stores. Kemiri (also called candlenuts) are the nuts used in Malaysia; Brazil or macadamia nuts make a fine substitute. Although the recipe calls for belachan (shrimp paste) I found anchovy paste to be a good alternative. Serve with rice and sambal.

Servings: 4


  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp tamarind concentrate, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 tbsp sliced garlic
  • 1/3 oz (10 g) Brazil or macadamia nuts
  • 1 tsp hot chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp belachan or anchovy paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 lb (1 kg) of beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 curry leaves or bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup water (optional)


Combine coconut milk, 1 tbsp tamarind liquid, onion, garlic, nuts, chili, coriander, salt, sugar and anchovy paste in a mini-chop and process into a smooth sauce. Reserve sauce.

Cut off bottom 3 inches of lemongrass, cut into 2. Smash with the back of a knife to release flavour.

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Heat oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add oil. Season beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear on each side until brown, about 1 minute a side. Remove meat to a plate. Pour sauce into skillet and bring to a boil. Stir in beef, curry leaves and lemongrass. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beef is tender. Reheat when needed.

Add water during cooking if the sauce evaporates too quickly. Sauce should be thick.