Easy-to-cook beef dish offers deep caramel flavour and spicy kick

By Ian Lau
I HAD intended to make beef rendang for this week’s column just before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, 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 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 served rendang.

This recipe was first published in Flavours magazine, and it was the simplest one in our archives. One of the more traditional recipes 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.

Seasoning for this black beef stew includes fennel, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and tamarind pulp. — SAMUEL ONG/The StarSeasoning for this black beef stew includes fennel, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and tamarind pulp. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

In this recipe, I sautéed the ingredients and then braised them in a pressure cooker.

This took a huge load off my shoulders because I didn’t have to stir constantly and worry about the dish burning or the meat not being tender enough.

The main seasoning ingredient for this dish is kicap manis, which also contributes to its darkness. Looking at the plate, it is easy to assume that it is just a meat dish cooked in dark soy sauce and forget the chilli that is camouflaged by the dark colour.

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 unable to balik kampung for Hari Raya.

Serve it with ketupat or nasi impit and it will truly be a Raya dish that you would want to cook every year.



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 manisDaging Masak Hitam is a perennial favourite during Ramadan.Daging Masak Hitam is a perennial favourite during Ramadan.

20g tamarind pulp

½ cup cold water

¼ tsp salt to taste

Spice blend

5 bulbs shallots

3 cloves garlic

3cm ginger

10g dried chillies

½ cup hot water

MethodBlend dried chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste.Blend dried chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste.

Grind the spice blend into a fine paste. Heat oil in saucepan and temper the curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom until fragrant.

Then add the spice blend, fennel, cumin and tamarind pulp and sauté further until fragrant.

Add the sliced beef and sauté until lightly cooked. Stir in kicap manis, water and salt to taste, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours until gravy thickens. Alternatively, braise in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes, then depressurise and reduce gravy until it thickens, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve.

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Retro Recipe , Kuali , Daging masak hitam


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