news: Satay secrets

By PATRICK STUART patrick.stuart@open-media.net

Meat skewers in peanut sauce, known as satay, is a dish that can be as hideously bad when prepared incorrectly as it is good when done properly.

Most of the satay we find here in Europe (outside of good Malaysian, Indonesian or Thai restaurants) falls into the former category and almost all cookbook recipes get the sauce completely wrong, using peanut butter rather than real peanuts, resulting in something not only gloopy but also extremely unhealthy.

The other element, the meat itself, should be easy to get right but more often than not the meat ends up dry and overcooked.

The secret for good satay skewers, especially chicken, is to cut the meat into small elongated pieces, thread onto an oiled wooden skewer and cook them extremely quickly over very hot coals.

Street cooks in Asia can always be seen fanning the coals to get them as hot as possible, quickly charring and sealing the meat in close proximity to the fire.

For a simple marinade that works every time, just mix some soy (or kekap) with crushed garlic, fresh ginger and curry powder, and leave to marinate for at least a few hours or even better overnight.

For the sauce, forget all the recipes you have read or used in the past employing peanut butter and start by making a paste in a food processor from onions (or ideally shallots), garlic, chillies, lemon grass and ginger. This is the base that will pack the punch and it needs to be fried in a non-stick saucepan for at least 15 minutes, stirring all the time to almost caramelise – just keep cooking until almost no more vapour is coming off.

Then add the water followed by tamarind and lime juice, then finally the crushed peanuts and cook for a few more minutes. Sweeten and season with soy sauce to taste. If you follow the quantities here you will end with enough sauce for around 10 people, but it freezes very well.

|| Satay Sauce

• 15 shallots or 2 medium-sized onions

• 10 small fresh chillies (or less if you don’t want it too spicy)

• 8 cloves of garlic

• 2 stalks of lemon grass (discard dry outer part)

• 2cm piece of peeled fresh ginger

• Brown sugar to taste

• 2 tablespoons lime juice

• 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp

• 1 litre water

• 500g salted roast peanuts (crushed or blitzed in a food processor but leave some bits for crunch)

• Soy sauce to taste


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