When I did, rendang amazed me even more. Instead of searing the meat before cooking it in liquid, as is done with a Western-style braise, I learned that I needed to reverse the process: I started with an aromatic melange including chiles, ginger, and fresh turmeric, all blended with coconut milk to make a sauce. Next came nicely marbled cubes of beef—in Indonesia, water buffalo is often the meat of choice—which I cooked in the sauce, ever so slowly. For hours the uncovered pan gently bubbled, sugars caramelized and fats rendered, until the sauce turned sludgy, the meat yielded to a fork, and the liquid had all but evaporated. Finally, the beef seared in its own fat and that of the coconut milk. It ended up as dark as chocolate, gleaming, and intense. I devoured it atop a hillock of rice, as the dish is eaten in Indonesia. There, rendang is a homespun preservation technique, used for everything from beef to chicken. The method is Indonesia's answer to charcuterie: The seasonings and salt cure the food.