Malaysian beef and lentil curry

My favourite Malaysian Restaurant, Chahaya Malaysia, on Montreal Road here in Ottawa, serves a wonderful lunch buffet from Monday to Friday. On the buffet, an item that keeps coming back is their Malaysian Beef and Lentil Curry, and it is to die for.

For a while now, I have been working on this recipe and thanks to Margaret, owner of the restaurant with her husband, I now have a better idea of the ingredients of the curry. Whole cloves and cardamom can be added to the whole spices if you wish.

This dish is not very pretty, but believe me, it is absolutely divine. Once you try it, you will want to make it again and again. And it is perfect for these warm summer days.


Whole spices:

3 star anise
3 inch stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves

For the spice paste:

5 shallots, grossly chopped
3 cloves garlic, grossly chopped
2 inches ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, tender inside part only, chopped
5 to 7 dried red chilli peppers
a bit of water

For the curry:

1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 kg stewing beef, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 can (400 ml) light coconut milk
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked
5 1/2 cups water


1. In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat, toast the whole spices in the oil until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Put all the ingredients of the paste in a blender and reduce to a smooth purée. Add this to the oil and whole spices and cook, stirring often, until it starts to turn golden and until it starts sticking to the bottom, about 10 to 15 minutes. The oil should come to the surface.

3. While the paste is cooking, cut and trim the beef. Add it to the pot and coat the meat with the paste. Continue to stir fry for about 5 minutes, until the beef has lost its raw colour.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the lentils, and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add the lentils and continue to cook, partially covered, until the beef falls apart, another 2 hours. At this point, the curry should be rich and consistent. Check once in a while to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. You may need to add a bit more water.

Serve over basmati rice.

Beef and lentil curry

3 replies »

  1. This sounds fabulous! I love all of the flavors you have listed in the recipe. I also hate when a dish isn’t really photogenic, but that’s just the way it is with some one-pot-dishes!


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