Satay! If you love to grill, you're going to LOVE this blend.
Back home in Malaysia, Sunday was usually the day we all went out to dinner to give Mum a break from the cooking. The hawker stalls were a frequent destination. Everyone ordered their individual meal, and more often than not, an order of 30 sticks of satay came to the table to share.
Satay at a hawker stall in Malaysia is a thing unto itself! You're sitting on a small square stool, at a wobbly table. The space is lit by a few kerosene lamps, or a string of lights powered by a generator, the sound of which fills your ears! The smoke rising from the long charcoal grill beckons you to come find a seat and put in your order. Like Pavlov's dog, your mouth waters as soon as you see the smoke and get a whiff of the cooking satay!
This Satay Spice Blend is inspired by my memory of the famous satay vendors in a small town called Kajang near where I grew up. It's well-known in Malaysia for having the best satay around. The key was to know which of the many satay vendors was actually the KING! Over the years, vendors would come and go, but Kajang always maintains its reputation as the destination for satay. I've tinkered with this recipe for a couple years, and finally landed on what tastes like the satay that I remember from Kajang.
Here are just a few tips to help you make your delicious version at home:
1. For chicken, I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. For beef, I prefer top sirloin. For a vegetarian option, use extra firm tofu - you just have to be gentle with the skewered tofu, so it doesn't break and fall off your skewers.
2. For tender beef satay, cut the top sirloin in 1/4" thick long rectangles. Slicing it this way cuts through the tough fibers so you get more tender bites of beef. For chicken, cut no larger than 1" thick long pieces. The long pieces make it easier to thread onto your skewers. Be consistent with the size and shape of your meat - this way, you know everything will cook at the same rate. You may be tempted to put large pieces of meat on fewer skewers, but they may be burnt on the outside, before the inside is done. This is especially important for chicken.
3. After you've combined the contents of your pouch with oil, and seasoned it with salt, reserve 1 heaping tbsp of that if you'd like to make your own peanut sauce (recipe below) and use the rest to marinate the meat.
4. Before threading your bamboo skewers, soak them in water - this helps to ensure they don't burn to a crisp while your meat is cooking.
5. Cook satay on a very hot grill. Satay without a char or at least grill marks is disappointing - you want the grill hot enough to caramelize the sugar in the marinade. Place your skewers on the grill, and leave them there. After two and a half to three minutes, turn them over and cook for another three minutes. Remove from grill and serve with peanut sauce.
1. Make this when you marinate your meat - the day before grilling.
2. Put two cups of peanuts (I use dry roasted peanuts) in your food processor, and pulse. The reason for pulsing rather than just turning it on and walking away, is that you don't want a fine powder - you want an irregular fine mince, with some larger pieces for texture. It's really worth taking the time to do this. I can't tell you how many times I've rolled my eyes at peanut sauce recipes that begin with peanut butter.
3. On a medium high stove, heat up 1/4 cup of oil in a saucepan. Add the reserved spice blend mix and sauté until fragrant.
4. Add the minced peanuts and one cup of water. Season with salt to taste and sugar (palm sugar is best, but any sugar will do). Bring to a low boil, then simmer for fifteen minutes, adding water if necessary.
5. Cool and store in the refrigerator overnight where it will thicken to the consistency of firm oatmeal.
6. When you're about to start cooking your satay, add water to bring it back to sauce consistency. Here's a little video so you can see what you're going for. You'll see some whole peanut in there - the crunch those add to the sauce is just perfect.