Eggplant Rendang: Softer and Spicier than ever!

Posted by Alyssa Boicel on

 I usually love eating a Malaysian Beef Rendang, however, it is a labor-intensive meal requiring more ingredients than what you see in this list if you want to make it authentically. Although I am not vegan (nor am I trying to be), I find my tastes are leaning more towards vegetable-based ingredients these days and I found eggplant a great absorber of flavor. Here is a vegan recipe of a Malay classic that tastes unbelievable and cuts down on the number of ingredients.

For this inspiration, I opt out of using lemon grass and galangal. I know it’s a shock, but I am focusing more on the lime leaves, still leaving the option to use lemon grass in the recipe.  I also use Chinese 5 spice powder rather than buying each ingredient from it, such as cinnamon bark, star anis, fennel seeds, etc. This is just a matter of convenience.

There is also WAY LESS chilis used than the traditional Malay recipes. After all, the majority of people I’m serving this to are not Malay; they have to build their way up to that kind of spice.

I want to remind everyone, this is not an authentic Rendang dish but an alternative one on a budget that is still quite spicy. The sauce is rich with a nice sweet and tangy balance from the tamarind, perfect for enticing your tastebuds. Anyone can eat it, only few could probably survive it. 


Prep Time Cook Time Total Time



2 medium size eggplants
¼ (85 g) cup grated ginger and garlic
½ parsnip
½ lotus root
 7 Thai chilis or 1-3 chilis for low spice
½ daikon radish
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
5 Keffir lime leaves
1 stock lemon grass (optional)
½ of one large onion or 1 medium sized onion diced
2 tablespoons of brown or palm sugar
2 tablespoons of tamarind
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds or powder
1 tablespoon of Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tablespoon of coriander powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of oil



  1. Chop and separate all your vegetable ingredients, except for the chilis. Chop the eggplants into one inch (2.54 cm ) cubes. Then dice the onion into smaller cubes. (The onions will be blended.) Slice the daikon and parsnip ½ an inch (1.27 cm) into crescent shapes. Set aside.

  2. Grate enough ginger and garlic to fill ¼ cup (85 g). Set aside in a small bowl. Also slice the lime leaves into thin strips and set aside.

  3. With a blender or food processor, put in your: chilis, onions, coriander, cumin and Chinese 5 spice powder with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Blend until ingredients are smooth. (You can also add salt here or put the salt in much later when making your sauce.)

  4. Pour the remaining oil into a medium size pot on the stove, raising the heat to medium-high (7). Once you feel the heat underneath the palm of your hand, pour in the grated ginger and garlic and cook for about five minutes.

  5. The smells will entice you, especially when you add the lime leaves next. In the moment you add the lime leaves, you can also add the one stock of pounded lemon grass (again optional but I don’t use it). Sauté the lime leaves (and lemon grass) for about five minutes before adding the sliced parsnip and daikon.

  6. After sautéing the daikon and parsnip for five minutes, start cooking the eggplant.

  7. Once you start to see the eggplant browning on each side, add the chili mix and step back. The spice might make you cry tears of joy into your sauce. Continue you sautéing for 5-10 minutes.

  8. Next add your coconut milk and stir for another five minutes, eventually lowering your heat to medium to simmer for the next 30 minutes. Also add the tamarind, sugar, and any additional salt needed at this time.

  1. After 30-40 minutes, check back in on the sauce. The eggplant, daikon, and parsnip should be softened and the sauce thicker than when you started due to the release of starches. The sauce should also be darker due to the caramelization from the sugar and tamarind.

  2. Cook longer if the sauce is still too thin, otherwise your eggplant Rendang is ready to serve!

During this time, you can start to prepare the rice of your choice. For this recipe, I used basmati rice.

Check out the whole video on how to prepare it here!

I strongly encourage people to try a traditional Beef Rendang and have a glass of milk prepared on the side. The dish normally takes a few hours to cook because of the meat tenderizing.

What I love about this alternative version is that the eggplant, parsnip, and daikon can really absorb all the flavors and soften more quickly so you do not have to wait a day to enjoy!

Leave comments if you have any suggestions or feedback about this recipe!

#asianinspired #basmati #hotsauce #spicy #vegan rice sauces

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