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Pork Satay – Thai style

By SHEENA RAWCLIFFE features@algarveresident.com

The Thai inspiration for light but tasty food seems to continue apace and while some recipes are tricky and time-consuming, one of the original Thai offerings to reach the west remains a favourite in our house.

The origin of the word Satay is not clear, although it is generally considered that as skewers are (normally) used in the cooking and presentation of this dish that this was the Indonesian street market vendors’ answer to kebabs.

Now, let’s be honest, most of us do not often use our BBQs in the winter months, even here in the Algarve, so I offer you here the traditional way of cooking the Satay and then an alternative to cook on top of the stove.

For four people (or three very hungry people) you will need:


Sunflower or groundnut oil – not olive oil please

200ml tinned coconut milk

Bunch of fresh coriander

One lime – zest and juice plus juice of one more lime

175g smooth peanut butter plus 50g salted roasted peanuts (or you can omit the roasted peanuts and use 225g coarse peanut butter)

3 Kaffir lime leaves

5cm piece of lemon grass or equivalent if using preserved lemon grass

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

25g of golden caster sugar or soft

light brown sugar

1 large clove garlic

1 medium red chilli – deseeded or half a tsp of Very Lazy Chillies (available in jars from good supermarkets)

2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger

600g pork tenderloin

For presentation: Wooden skewers, lime segments, dried banana slices

How to: Cut tenderloin into 2cm cubes.

Marinade/Dipping Sauce: Place the lime leaves in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for five minutes. Once softened, remove from water and shred finely. Place these shreds in a food processor (or liquidiser), adding the chopped lemon grass, lime zest, lime juice, peeled garlic, chopped ginger, and fish sauce. Cut the leaves of the coriander from the stalks and add the stalks only to the other ingredients in the food processor.  Turn on the processor or liquidiser and blend until all the ingredients are finely chopped.

Now add the coconut milk, sugar and peanut butter blending until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of the mixture into a bowl for marinating the pork.

To the mixture still in the food processor, add the salted peanuts if you are using them, and also the coriander leaves. Pulse the mixture a few times until the peanuts are roughly chopped. Pour this mixture into a suitable bowl for serving, cover with cling wrap and store in the fridge until needed.

Add the pork cubes to the marinade making sure that each cube is well coated and leave for a minimum of one hour.

If you are going to BBQ the Satays then soak the wooden skewers in a little water while the pork is marinating.

Cooking by BBQ: Dry the skewers and lightly oil them so that the meat can move easily on the wood.

Thread cubes of meat onto each skewer. Please do not pack the cubes too closely to one another.

Place on the BBQ grill and brush liberally with the residual marinade.  The meat will take around 15 minutes to cook and you should brush the marinade over the meat at regular intervals during that time to keep the pork moist.

Alternative cooking: Heat a wok or similar deep frying pan and add the pork cubes – not on skewers – along with half the residual marinade.  A wok works perfectly for this as you can keep the pork moving around to ensure quick but thorough cooking. As the marinade is absorbed by the meat add the remainder. Cooking will take around 10–15 minutes. Keep the heat high as you do not want the meat to steam in the marinade, but rather to dry fry.

Serving: If you are serving the Satays cold then cool them quickly, (put the meat on to the skewers if using the alternative cooking method), cover and place in the fridge until required.

On colder evenings, I serve these delicious pork pieces hot with light, fluffy long grain rice, the sauce and a garnish of lime wedges and dried banana pieces.

This really is a simple tasty recipe that can be adapted for chicken, firm fish, and I have known vegetarian friends who substitute the meat with tofu. Lamb also works well, but use half coriander and half mint for the marinade/sauce.

Happy cooking!