• Prep Time -
  • Cook Time -
  • Serving For 4-6 people
  • Difficulty Hard

Recipe Description

I had intended to make beef rendang for this week’s column just before Raya, but when I saw the recipe for daging masak hitam, I was intrigued. It looked extremely appetising, and I was drawn to the fusion of flavours that I had not expected from a Malay dish.

Daging masak hitam is popular in the northern states of Penang and Perak, and is usually served during Sahur or Iftar during the fasting month of Ramadan. This dish may be included as part of the Hari Raya spread, but it is usually reserved for the family meal, while guests are usually just served rendang.

This recipe was first published in Flavours magazine, and it was the simplest one in our archives. The more traditional recipe in our collection had called for a slow simmer of the meat for two hours, all the while stirring continuously and topping up with teaspoons of plum juice, or asam boi, to keep the dish from burning. However, instead of extracting the juice from a salted plum or asam boi, this recipe calls for tamarind pulp or asam jawa that you can just add to the pot and allow it to disintegrate on its own.

In this recipe, I just sautéed the ingredients and then braised it in the pressure cooker. This took a huge load off my shoulders because I didn’t have to stir constantly and worry about dish burning or the meat not being tender enough. The main seasoning ingredient for this dish is kicap manis, which also contributes to the hitam of the dish. Looking at the plate, it is easy to assume that it is just a meat dish cooked in dark soy sauce and forget that the chilli is camouflaged by all the darkness. The sweet soy sauce, however, provides a deep caramel flavour that complements the spicy heat of the blended chillies.

This is, by far, the simplest recipe that anyone can prepare when we cannot balik kampung for Raya. Serve it with ketupat or nasi impit and it will truly be a Raya dish that you’d want to cook every year.

Recipe Ingredient

  • Ingredients
  • 500g lean beef, sliced to about 1cm thick
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 stalk curry leaves
  • 3cm cinnamon stick
  • 5 buds cloves
  • 5 pods cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tbsp kicap manis
  • 20g tamarind pulp
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¼ tsp salt to taste
  • Spice blend
  • 5 bulbs shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 cm ginger
  • 10g dried chillies
  • ½ cup hot water


  1. Grind the spice blend into a fine paste.
  2. Heat oil in saucepan and temper the curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom until fragrant.
  3. Then add the spice blend, fennel, cumin and tamarind pulp and sauté further until fragrant.
  4. Add the sliced beef and sauté until lightly cooked.
  5. Stir in kicap manis, water and salt to taste, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours until gravy thickens.
  6. Alternatively, braise in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes, then depressurise and reduce gravy until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and serve.

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