Indonesian cuisine distinguishes itself with the use of robust spices and intense flavours. Chilli is abundant. Since most Indonesians are Muslim and are thus forbidden from eating pork, many dishes are made with beef. One of my favourite Indonesian dishes is beef rendang.     

In Hong Kong, there are quite a number of Indonesian restaurants, but I have never found one as authentic as those in Indonesia. A strong urge for beef rendang had been churning hard in my mind and tummy these days, so I searched and found this hidden gem – Malayan Restaurant – which is open only for lunch on weekdays. Focused on presenting traditional Malaysian cuisine, the owner learned from wet markets and restaurants in Malaysia and even from her Malaysian grandfather.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of a commercial building in Chai Wan, the small space was simply decorated with a Malaysian flag and portraits of Malaysian tigers. Arriving at 12pm, I was lucky to get the last seat, and it took 45 minutes before the food was served! So you either have to arrive very early or be ready to be super late for work.

I was very hangry from the seemingly endless waiting, but when the beef rendang with garlic rice ($64 for lunch set with drink) was served, the irresistible fragrances and vibrant colours swiped all my anger away. It definitely looked and smelled right!

Image titleVarious ingredients including ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallot and chilli had been ground into a paste before being braised with the beef and coconut milk. The concoction was slowly cooked for hours until it was almost caramelised.

I was particularly in love with the burst of punchy flavours unleashed by the chunks of ginger and lemongrass, invading my every taste bud. The beef was undoubtedly very moreish. The only blight, though, was the tenderness. If the beef had been a bit more tender and succulent, the dish would have been perfect.

Image titleThe garlic rice was so dark brown in colour that I knew it would be another winner. The flavourful rice, fried with garlic and soy sauce, revealed a divine hint of chicken fat, completely whipping my appetite into a frenzy. The dish was served with anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, cucumber and chilli paste, which is compulsory to give a final kick. As a no-rice person, I literally mopped up the last grain from my plate! 

Room 601, 6/F, Cheung Tat Centre, 18 Lee Chung Street, Chai Wan, 5547 0340 (additional branch in Quarry Bay) 

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