Ok, so after my last beef rendang attempt and failure, I felt I needed to redeem myself. If at first you don't succeed, yada yada... this time I tried using this recipe from Rasa Malaysia (yeah, I know, Malaysia is not Indonesia, but the author claims to be using an Indonesian recipe). It looked more promising than the last recipe I tried- it involves a paste made from all of the aromatics, plus additional spices (which are so cheap here! hooray for the spice islands!), but most importantly, the recipe had more detailed instructions.
Well, I gave it ye olde college try, but the recipe was still not successful. Sigh. Fail. Maybe closer than the last try, but not quite right. While the flavor is nice and it smells amazing, I can't seem to achieve the deep, dark caramelization that they get at restaurants here. Tim says that I can buy pre-darkened coconut milk here, but that seems a little bit like cheating and none of the recipes I've seen online include it.
Perhaps I need to take a cooking class here and have someone show me how to make this dish correctly.
The redeeming factor in all of this is that I made nasi goreng with the leftover rice, and it was delicious. Nasi goreng is Indonesian fried rice, made with chilies, garlic, onion, kecap manis (a thick, sweet Indonesia soy sauce- "manis" = sweet), and usually shrimp paste (terasi udang), which stinks to holy hell, but gives the dish the umami flavor it needs. The ingredients vary slightly depending on who's making it, but the ones I listed seem to be the essential ones. I put chicken on my rice, but you can put pretty much anything on top and call it breakfast, lunch or dinner here. Egg, shrimp, chicken...