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Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)

Winter means constant braising, and stew, and curry. Curry means flipping through half my cookbooks before finally settling on this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery. With a few changes, the most important being some fresh galangal and ground cardamom thrown in to add much-needed high notes to perk things up and bring them together, this is one curry we’ve been making again and again this winter.

It can be hard to find fresh galangal, but if you’re lucky you may find an ethnic market that keeps frozen galangal on hand. I was extra lucky, and my local food co-op very briefly had actual fresh galangal for sale. (Then some of it got moldy, which led to people not buying it, which led to them not bothering to order any more or keep it in stock. Damnit.) Like ginger, fresh galangal always comes in larger quantities than you can actually get around to using before it goes bad – left to its own devices, that is.

What I couldn’t use immediately, I stored the same way I always store extra ginger – peeled, cut into largish chunks, and kept submerged in white wine in a container in the fridge.

This method of storing ginger was suggested to me a few years ago by a friend who had then recently graduated from the French Culinary Institute, and I have been using it ever since. It keeps ginger (or galangal) so well that you can substitute it whenever a recipe calls for the fresh stuff, with no noticable depreciation in flavor. As a perk, you also end up with intensely flavorful ginger wine (or galangal wine), that can be used to great effect when making sauces.

So, you see, storing ginger or galangal in white wine in the fridge is economical, convenient, and gives you an extra pantry item to play with later on.

If you can’t find galangal, which is like a sharper, more floral, and citrusy version of ginger, you might try substituting a combination of ginger and preserved lemon.

Actually, it just occured to me – let this also constitute my entry to the new food blogging event, Waiter, There’s Something in My… Stew.

Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery by (you guessed it) Madhur Jaffrey)
8 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/2 C vegetable oil
4 dried birdseye chilies, crushed (or more to taste, or substitute other hot chilies)
3 tbsp fermented black beans
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 lbs beef, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
3 sticks lemongrass, keeping only the bottom 4-5″, outer layer removed
20 curry leaves (optional)
2″ cinnamon stick
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp grated galangal
1 tsp cardamom
~3C stock or water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut off the bottom end of each lemongrass, and the strawlike top, leaving only the bulbous 4″ or so at the bottom. Remove the toughest outer leaf and rinse. Bruise by crushing them a bit.

Rinse the black beans, and mash them up with the oyster sauce.

Pour the oil into a large, deep pan (or saucepan) and stir-fry half the onions until dark and crispy, then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper-towel-covered plate to drain.

Add the other half of the onions to the pan and stir-fry until they are somewhat browned, but soft and translucent, not crispy. Add the chilies and stir-fry for just a moment. Add the black bean and oyster sauce mix and stir-fry for another moment. Then put in everything else (except the original crispy fried onions, which should remain set aside), and simmer, covered, for about an hour and a half or until tender and done.

Remove the cover, raise the heat, and reduce the sauce until nice and thick, stirring occasionally so that it does not burn to the bottom. When trying to gauge what constitutes ‘nice and thick’, remember that the onions will soak up some sauce and thicken it still further in the end.

Stir in those original fried onions from the beginning. Lower the heat back to medium and cook for another two minutes, and then add salt and black pepper to taste.

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14 Responses to “Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar)”

  1. Andrew says:

    Great photos!

    Thanks for taking part in our new event and with such a great recipe too; one I will have to try out.

  2. Brilynn says:

    That ginger in wine tip is great, thanks!

  3. Meena says:

    This looks so comforting right now, especially since I’m stuck at home with a cold while it snows outside! I’ve been trying to get my hands on this particular book of Madhur Jaffrey, and have finally succeeded in making my Hubby bring it back from his India trip! Can’t wait to try it out!

  4. Yvo says:

    Mmmm, yummy….
    It was great seeing you yesterday. Cheers to many more!

  5. Kristen says:

    Those are cookbook quality photos…cover photos! Very nice job!

  6. Those caramelized-looking onions look delish…sometimes what I love most about a dish is not the main ingredients, but those little ingredients that “complete” the dish.

  7. Your photos are great, Danielle! Wow!

    I should make this dish for my husband. He would certainly love it!

  8. Barbara says:

    Do you brown the beef at some point or just stew it in the sauce?

  9. Danielle says:

    Andrew – Thank you for hosting such a great event.

    Brilynn – Enjoy. ^^

    Meena – Is it hard to find nowadays? My copy actually used to belong to my mother, and I have no idea where she got it or how many years ago. Also, I hope you feel better soon.

    Yvo – Likewise! Now to just figure out who’s going to host the next gathering!

    Kristen, Patricia – Thank you so much!

    RM – I feel much the same way.

    Barbara – I don’t brown the beef for this dish, though you certainly could if you want to.

  10. Dejah says:


    I made this curry tonight. I made half the recipe and wish I made the whole 2 lbs of beef! But, it was better portion-wise for us. Excellent food for a winter night.

    I bought a bag of curry leaves. Do you have other recipes I can use with this herb?

    Appreciate your suggestion for storing galangal in white wine. Much better than freezing them.

  11. Bobbi says:

    We grow our own galangal in our back yard in largish pots. It weathered the hard freezes that took out the majority of our tropical plants last month.

  12. [...] meanwhile throws together, on Habeas Brulee, Malaysian Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce (Daging Nasi Kandar) adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern [...]

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