Who was the first one to make Satays? The Thai or the Indonesians or the Malaysians? Although, its exact origins are unclear, it is most commonly believed that in the early 19thcentury, Muslim traders from Arab and Middle Eastern world, when moved to Java, Indonesia they brought with them the rich traditions of ‘kebabs’ and while living as immigrants in Indonesia created Satay or Sate.
Later, Satay become so famous that it is now the national dish of Indonesia. But being a Dutch colony earlier, it was adapted by many other Southeast Asian countries (i.e., Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand) creating their own special versions of satay by infusing their local ingredients. Today it has more variations within the region than we could count!
Over the years, every country has created its own uniqueness and specialty by crafting a unique taste and flavors. The Indonesian satay tends to be a bit sweeter than other varieties due to the use of ginger and sweetener in both the marinade and the peanut sauce. Thai satay is distinct in its use of coconut milk as a part of the marinade and as a part of the peanut sauce, giving it a smooth and creamy texture. For the Malaysian satay the predominant spices are fresh lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, ground coriander and cumin. Its hard to say that one sounds better than the other. They all sound very tasty, if there is such a thing.
Today I am recreating delicious Malaysian Satays.
Satay are extremely famous from the streets of Malaysia to fine dining. They have three main components: a flavorful chicken marinade; a good charcoal grill; and thick nutty peanut dipping sauce. These are traditionally served with cucumbers, red onions and little squares of compressed rice cakes known as ketupat.
For chicken marinade, a blend of shallots (small onions), fresh stalks of Lemon grass, fresh galangal & ginger are flavored with homemade curry powder which adds a lot of flavor and yellow color to the chicken. Galangal looks like ginger in appearance, but it has white flesh and light tan skin and a very warm, sweet, citrusy flavor. It can be brought from Asian super markets where is sells as Thai ginger. I couldn’t find it, therefore, just skipped adding it but I am sure it will definitely enhance the flavor of the marinade.
Skewered chicken is grilled beautifully on charcoal keeping it juicy with a smoky and charred texture. And lastly the charred chicken satays are served with a nutty peanut sauce, which completely takes the dish to another level. Peanut sauce can be prepared in numbers of ways. It is a sauce which is sweet, savory, spicy and nutty. All flavors in one bite!!! Oh wow, I can still salivate the taste of chicken Satays remembering the texture and flavors. I am leaving you here to enjoy this extremely delicious dish.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 mins
Serving: 2 – 4 persons
- Chicken thigh pieces – 750 gm, cut into long strips
- Onion (Shallots) – 2 to 3
- Garlic – 1 teaspoon, 3 cloves – finely chopped
- Ginger – 1 teaspoon, an inch – finely chopped
- Galangal – 1 inch fresh, finely chopped (skip it not available)
- Lemon grass – 1 – 2 stalks of fresh lemon grass, using the white part only or
- Frozen lemon grass – 1 tablespoon or
- Dry lemon grass – 1 teaspoon full, grinded into fine powder
- For homemade curry powder
- Fennel seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Coriander seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Crushed red chili – 1 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon
- Red chili powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Fish sauce – 1 teaspoon
- Soya sauce – 1 tablespoon
- Brown sugar – 1 tablespoon
- Lime juice – 1 tablespoon
- Salt to taste
- Cut chicken pieces into thick strips.
- Blend shallots, galangal (if using), ginger and garlic, in a food processor or blender.
- Pour mixture over chicken.
- Make a spice blend with dry lemon grass, fennel, coriander, cumin, turmeric and crushed chili powder. Add one tablespoon of spice mix into the chicken along with brown sugar and red chili powder.
- Give the chicken a good massage to get all those spices in there. Add salt and pepper at this stage if needed.
- Let it marinade for at least 2 hours; up to overnight, in the fridge.
- Soak the bamboo skewers (this will help from skewers to burn on the charcoal grill) for at least 1 hour before using, alternatively can also use steel skewers as I did.
- Put the chicken on the skewers.
- Grill over high heat until very slightly charred on the outside.
- Serve with roughly chopped cucumber, red onion, and the nutty peanut sauce.
Peanut Sauce Recipe:
- Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Garlic – 2 cloves finely chopped
- Brown sugar – 2 tablespoons
- Roasted peanuts – 1 cup, skin removed, chopped into fine powder
- Fish sauce – 1 teaspoon
- Dark soya sauce – 1 tablespoon
- Coconut milk – ½ cup
- Red chili powder – ½ – 1 teaspoon
- Tamarind paste – 1 tablespoon
- Red curry paste – 2 tablespoons
- Salt to taste
Peanut Sauce Method:
- Fry the garlic in oil, unless golden crispy.
- Add the brown sugar, let it melt and caramelize.
- Once its nicely caramelized, add the chopped nuts into it.
- Add fish sauce and dark soya sauce. Give it a good mix.
- Add the coconut milk, curry paste, chili powder and tamarind paste.
- The sauce will be runny at this point. Let it simmer on slow flame until it thickens on its own
- Adjust the salt at the end.
- The sweet, spicy, nutty and savory peanut sauce it ready.