Seitan Rendang

Rendang is definitely my favourite Indonesian dish. I’ve been meaning to make a veganized version of it for a while, but since the cooking takes so long, I’ve been putting it off. Christmas at the cottage was the perfect place to make it. We cooked this on the day before Christmas Eve, while heating up the brick oven and preparing other Christmas dishes.


I think the result was excellent, but maybe it tasted a little milder than the rendang I’ve had in Indonesia. So, the next time we’ll cook this I’m gonna use more chili powder or maybe fresh chillies instead. The recipe is based on a Beef Rendang recipe from Sri Owen‘s excellent Indonesian Food and Cookery, but we modified it a bit: upped the amounts of spices, and replaced the meat with seitan. This recipe serves four persons.

This is what we used:

For the gluten dough:

  • 2 ½ dl gluten flour
  • 2 ½ dl water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

For the seitan broth:

  • 1 ½ liters water
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • a 3 cm slice of ginger, cut into pieces
  • 2 bay leaves

For cooking the rendang:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon galingale, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, crushed
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (4 dl each)
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

We prepared the seitan one day before cooking rendang. We mixed the water, gluten flour, soy sauce and chili powder, and kneaded the resulting dough, until it turned all firm and spongy, which took maybe some three to five minutes. Next, we split the dough in three equal sized balls. Now it was time to make the broth, which was really simple. We just put the water, stock cubes, pieces of ginger, the bay leaves and the gluten balls in a pot, and brought it to boil on high heat.


Once the broth was boiling, we lowered the heat and let the gluten balls simmer for some two hours. After the gluten-cum-seitan balls were done, we put the cooking pan outdoors for the night. Had we been in the city, we would have utilized the fridge, of course.

The next day it was time to cook the actual dish. If you’re in a hurry – although that might not be the word to use when it comes to preparing this dish – you don’t need to wait overnight, but can continue preparing the dish right when the seitan balls are ready.

We began by cutting up and crushing all the ingredients, according to the list above. The balls of seitan were cut up into cubes, roughly 2,5 cm in diameter.

Now, we put an iron cauldron on the wood stove, and poured one can of coconut milk in it. In more urban settings, a wok over medium-high heat would do the trick. Then we added the onion, garlic, galingale, ginger, chili and turmeric, and stirred them all in. Once the mix was bubbling merrily, we added the seitan chunks and the bay leaf, and let it simmer on medium heat, stirring it every now and then.


Since the seitan absorbed the coconut milk so readily, we added another can of coconut milk after 45 minutes or so. After about 1 hour and 45 minutes since adding the seitan chunks, the sauce finally started to thicken. According to Sri Owen’s instructions, this should happen between 1 ½ and two hours after starting to cook the rendang. At this point we tasted the rendang, and adjusted the saltiness to our liking.

Now, the cooking didn’t stop here. After the sauce starts to thicken, it has to be stirred continuously, until the seitan chunks have absorbed all of the sauce. This took about one hour. The magic that happens here is that the coconut milk clears and turns into this oily, spicy paste that covers the seitan chunks. So, once the coconut milk was absorbed almost completely, it was time to eat!

We served the rendang with jasmine rice. It tasted heavenly, and was completely worth the effort! But I think that it’s best done in a big communal kitchen, where you can chat with your friends or family while stirring it, so it was a perfect dish to cook at the cottage.