Black Beef Nasi Kandar
The journey from Bankok to Penang took 22 hours by train, and by the time we arrived we were ravenous. Like, really, really hungry.
The good news was, there is no better place in the world to be hungry. Penang is renowned for its culinary delights, and was recently voted number 3 in Forbes list of "top 10 street food cities".Needless to say, we were excited.

As we wandered through the bustling streets, sweating profusely in the stifling heat, we marveled at the sights, sounds, and smells around us. Little India with its spicy clay pot Biryani's and tandoori chicken, some of the best outside of Mumbai. Chinatown boasted hundreds of little outdoor eateries serving up dishes from dainty dim-sum, to Char Sui Boi and crispy Peking duck. Spoiled for choice.

But we were after something else, something special. A Malaysian classic and the pride of Penang.
Nasi Kandar.

This famous classic consists of lightly spiced rice served with a selection of curry sauces, meats, and vegetables. Traditional accompaniments are fried chicken, slow cooked beef, seafood okra and bitter gourd. It is found all over the city, in small open air stalls and restaurants, and a full plate will set you back around $3-5. Generally, you are expected to order at the counter, choosing whatever curry and sides you wish. Oh, and you eat with your hands, although if you are preparing this for a dinner party, you may want to provide silverware... just in case.

We chose the slow cooked beef with spiced cabbage and some fried chicken and dug in.

Here's how you do it.

You will need.
(Check out your local Indian food store to find some of the more hard-to-find items)

  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 Tbsp beef curry powder.
  • A Handful of fresh curry leaves
  • A handful fresh mint leaves
  • Some vegetable oil
  • 5 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, pureed (or substitute a small tin of tomato paste)
  • 1 kg beef topside, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1-inch ginger root, sliced
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 100ml water
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Salt to taste


Mix the chilli powder and curry powder with a few drops of water to form a paste.
Heat some oil in a heavy based saucepan, in small batches, add the cubed beef and sear until brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned beef and set aside. Keep the leftover oil in the pan for the next stage.
Add the curry leaves and mint and fry quickly.
Add your chopped onion, garlic and shallots.
Add your curry and chilli paste.
Let these ingredients cook until the spices are fragrant and the onion is cooked through.
Next, add the tomato puree, fresh tomato, palm sugar, white sugar, soy sauce and the beef you fried earlier.
Add the water and stir well. Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened. Feel free to add a bit of water if the curry is reducing too fast. The final result should be a rich, fragrant brown sauce.

Season to taste.

Serve with some steamed rice, and some stir fried okra or cabbage on the side. 

Selamat Menjamu Selera!

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