The flavors are complex and deep (hot, spicy, a bit sweet and a bit salty) and the dish is very aromatic.
This dish is simple to prepare and the ingredients are inexpensive (stewing meat is a lot cheaper than loins and rounds). But when you taste it, you wouldn’t think it’s simple and cheap.
Following the traditional method of slowly braising the beef, cooking this delicious dish can take a couple of hours. But if the beef is pressure-cooked partially, you save a lot of time and precious fuel (or electricity).
So, the trick is to pressure-cook the beef only about three-quarters of the way through so that it can be sliced without falling apart. Then, the meat can finish cooking in the sauce giving it enough time to absorb the flavors.
Now, about the sauce. You really need a good spice base to make it. The traditional way to create the spice base is to grind the spices with a mortar and pestle until they form a paste. If you need more details about how to use a mortar and pestle correctly, see the linked post below.
Mortar and pestle for the home kitchen
Stone or wood? Polished or unpolished? Smooth or coarse? We’ve gone through dozens of mortars and pestles, and here’s what we learned.
Don’t own a mortar and pestle? A mini food processor or blender will do. But you will have to drizzle in a little water to help the machine with the grinding.
Once you have your ground spices, you saute them in oil to release the flavors. The beef strips are tossed in, the seasonings and the liquid in which the meat had been pressure-cooked are poured in and the stewing begins.
A tip: When sauteeing the spice paste, it is best to wait until the solids separate from the oil before proceeding. This little step creates deeper flavors because you’re allowing the spices to caramelize.
Balinese beef strips (daging masak Bali)
- 350 grams boneless stewing beef - (uncut) pressure-cooked with 1 ½ cups water and 3 tablespoons soy sauce for 45 minutes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 one-inch knob ginger
- 2 shallots - or 1 onion
- 2 bird’s eye chilies
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaf
- 2 tbsps vegetable cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons palm sugar - brown sugar is okay
- 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 bird’s eye chili - finely chopped
- sliced scallions - or onion leaves
- Cut the beef into strips about a quarter of an inch thick and three inches long.
- Pound the garlic, shallots, ginger and chilis to a paste. Use a mortar and pestle, a blender or a food processor.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the paste and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the beef to the pan. Stir to coat each piece with the spice paste.
- Add the kaffir lime leaf, tamarind juice, palm sugar, soy sauce and shrimp paste. Pour in the liquid in which the beef was pressure-cooked.
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced. Taste the sauce, adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Sprinkle with finely sliced chili and scallions, and serve hot.