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Raya and Its Delicious Food, a Short History of Rendang

During Hari Raya, people ask for forgiveness 

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is an important Muslim festival that is celebrated in Malaysia and in other parts of the world. The celebration marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. During hari raya, people ask for forgiveness from their loved ones and visit the graves of their ancestors.  

They also go to the mosque in the morning to pray solat raya and spend time with their relatives and friends after that. Parents and elders usually give children small amounts of money as duit raya, which is a fun and exciting part of the celebration.  

Rendang, ketupat, and lemang 

One of the best things about hari raya is the delicious food that people enjoy, such as ketupat, rendang, and lemang. Many other foods are served during Raya, depending on which state in Malaysia, but these three dishes are particularly associated with hari raya

Ketupat is made by boiling rice inside a pouch woven from palm leaves. This makes the rice cake firm and dense. People usually eat ketupat with rendang. Lemang is made by cooking glutinous rice and coconut milk inside a bamboo stick over an open fire. Like ketupat, lemang is also often eaten with rendang.  

Rendang is made with beef or chicken and a blend of spices, cooked slowly in coconut milk until the beef or chicken becomes tender, and the sauce gets thick. This results in a dish that is full of flavour and delicious. Together, rendang, ketupat, and lemang make for a perfect hari raya feast.

Rendang is believed to have originated in North India 

Rendang has a long history that dates back to the early second millennium when India and West Sumatra had regular contact. Rendang is believed to have originated in North India as a meat and spice dish known as curry. Indians came to West Sumatra to trade, bringing their culture and cuisine with them. 

In West Sumatra, rendang is made by simmering meat, spices, and coconut milk until the sauce is thick and brownish. The Minangkabau people cook it again until the colour becomes darker, and the meat soaks up the sauce. This method is different from Indian curry, which has different cooking techniques than Sumatran curry. 

The spices used in rendang, such as onion, coriander, cumin, and ginger, are similar to those used in Indian curry. These ingredients were brought to West Sumatra by Indian traders, who also taught the locals how to prepare dried meat, which is an important component of rendang. 

Coconut milk as one of its important ingredients

Rendang requires coconut milk as one of its important ingredients. Coconut trees are abundantly grown in West Sumatra and can be seen planted around houses and along the streets, which is why it’s commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. 

Turmeric is a spice commonly used in rendang and has been grown for over 2000 years in India, China, and the Middle East. Chili, another key ingredient, was first grown in Mexico Valley North America and was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. 

Minangkabau people

In the 1800s, the Minangkabau people travelled to different places and introduced their special dish, rendang, to other regions they visited. One of these places was Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, where the Minangkabau had been moving to since the 15th century. 

When the Portuguese arrived and colonised Malacca from 1511 to 1641, they influenced each other’s cuisines with the locals and created a common Malay cuisine culture in the Malacca Strait. Rendang, a dish that could last for months, was a popular choice among wanderers and traders.

The Portuguese have a unique way of preserving food, especially meat. They consume a lot of meat and use various methods to process it. Portuguese-style meat processing includes grilling (assado), mixing meat with spices (recheado), boiling (buisado), and steaming (bafado).

It is said that rendang became popular in other Malay regions because of travellers from Minangkabau who moved around. They went to places like Riau, Jambi, and Malaysia. When they travelled long distances, they brought rendang as a reserve.

This helped to spread the popularity of Minangkabau food outside Minangkabau. Additionally, the habit of long journeys and advanced mass media development also helped in the spread of Minang food outside Minangkabau.


The Minangkabau people view rendang as not just a delicious dish, but also as a symbol of important values like patience, wisdom, and persistence. Preparing rendang requires careful attention to detail and a lot of effort. Patience is necessary to cook the meat slowly and stir the sauce consistently. Wisdom is also crucial in choosing the right ingredients to achieve the desired flavour. Preparing delicious rendang takes time and experience, and many factors must be considered. The availability of ingredients is also an important consideration.


Nurmufida, M., Wangrimen, G. H., Reinalta, R., & Leonardi, K. (2017). Rendang: the treasure of minangkabau. Journal of Ethnic Foods4(4), 232-235.

Rahman, F. (2020). Tracing the origins of rendang and its development. Journal of Ethnic Foods7(1), 1-11.

Winarno, F. G., & Agustinah, W. (2005). HERBA dan REMPAH Aplikasinya Dalam Hidangan.

Anderson, J. (1826). Mission to the East Coast of Sumatra, in 1823. William Hackwood.

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