Sunday, March 1, 2015

Malaysian Satay Recipe

Mention the word "satay" and I am instantly reminded of my childhood years and years ago, how the Malay Satay Man would peddle his mobile satay stall on his bicycle in my neighbourhood, tooting his horn. Sometimes, I could even smell the aroma from my house, even though he could be grilling his satay down the road. I would get all excited at the prospect of having satay for dinner, and run to the window to see if I could detect any "smoke" signals in the sky. He made one of the best satays in town, and the fact that he peddled his stall around the neighbourhood meant that we could walk up to him with empty plates and bowls waiting to be filled with freshly made satay. Those were the simple things in life back then, though coming from a foodie family, food was and is a big deal, as to most Malaysians of course.

Malaysian Satay is such a luxury item in Sydney. I don't think I've ever ordered satay here before, not when I know it costs multiple times less back in Malaysia. Thai style satay is quite common here, although I'm not a fan of it as they are often presented as a single long piece of chicken breast meat on a bamboo skewer, grilled (and often a tad dry) and served with a sweet peanut sauce which tastes like peanut butter mixed with loads of palm sugar. I guess my tastebuds are more accustomed to savoury and spicy Malaysian cuisine, rather than the sweet side of Thai food.

Anyway, I digress. I had to make satay at home from scratch, and it's pretty simple really. Serve it with cucumbers and ketupat (compressed rice) for a complete meal.

Malaysian Satay Recipe

1kg (2 lbs) chicken thigh fillet or beef scotch fillet steak
Vegetable oil and a stick of lemongrass for basting

Marinade (finely blended into a paste):
150g shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
2-3 lemongrass (white part only), sliced
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground fennel
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground turmeric
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt

1 red onion, sliced/cubed
Cucumbers, sliced into wedges
Ketupat (compressed rice cakes) - see here for recipe

You will need about 40-50 bamboo skewers (or less if they are long skewers), soaked in water for  a few hours.


  1. Cut the meat into 1 inch x 2 inch slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Combine with marinade and mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and mix through. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Thread the pieces of meat onto the bamboo skewers (about 3-4 pieces each) and set aside on a plate.
  3. For basting the satay, take the lemongrass and smash the white part until it's "frayed" like a brush.
  4. Grill the satay sticks over a barbecue, using the lemongrass "brush" to baste the satay with vegetable oil.
  5. Serve with peanut sauce and condiments.

Satay sauce / Peanut sauce Recipe

500g raw unsalted peanuts, skinless
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 1 cup hot water to extract the juice
2-3 cups water, plus extra
150g gula Melaka (dark brown palm sugar), chopped
4 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt or to taste

Spice paste (finely blended into a paste):
100g shallots
4 clove garlic
2-3 stalks lemongrass, white part only, chopped
15-20 long dried chillies, deseeded, soaked in a hot water overnight and chopped (discard the water)
1 inch galangal


  1. Dry fry the peanuts in a large wok, without any oil, until the peanuts are lightly browned and fragrant. Remove and set aside to cool.
  2. Pound/grind/blend the peanuts until almost smooth but with some coarse bits still visible, depending on whether you like it smooth or chunky I guess. Set aside.
  3. Heat up the 1/2 cup oil in a medium sized pot. Add the blended spice paste and fry until the chilli oil starts to separate from the paste. Add the tamarind juice, gula Melaka and water and bring to a boil and simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Add the ground peanuts and stir to mix well. Bring to a boil, then add salt and brown sugar to taste. Add more water if it's too thick. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
  5. Turn off heat and set the sauce aside until the oil rises to the top. Serve warm with satay and ketupat (rice cakes).