Satay – the ubiquitous snack, appetiser or street food in South east Asia. So, where did Satay come from? Would it surprise you if I say that it does in fact owe its origins to the Middle East? Via India, of course.
It’s believed that Satay was introduced to the Indonesians by Indian traders in the form of kebabs, which of course, as we all know is a Persian invention. These kebabs were transformed into the satay or sate as we know it today by street vendors in Java.
Incidentally, Satay is also very commonplace in the Netherlands and former Dutch colonies, owing to the fact that Indonesia was a Dutch territory. This wonderful invention was one of the things the returning Dutchmen took home with them. It is also a local food in South Africa, where it’s known as Sosatie, brought over by the Malays, known as Cape Malays. The term “sosatie” is a portmanteau of “sate” and “saus” (sauce).
Singapore used to have an area just off the Singapore Cricket Club that was called Satay Club and all the vendors used to initially sell various forms of satay, which slowly expanded to include the usual local hawker foods like grilled ray, noodles and various forms of rice dishes. The Satay Club was demolished in 1995 to make way for the usual new development.
There is no magic formula for marinating the meat or for making the sauce. It is open to interpretations, according to one’s taste – with or without lemongrass & galangal, more chilli, less sugar – if ever there was a recipe meant to be played with!
The taste you are going for with satay is savoury and sweet. The traditional satay is marked by quite a bit of sweetness from the satay itself and hot and sweet from the sauce.
What’s important is, the size and thinness of the meat used. You want to cut your meat thinly for speedy cooking, so that it doesn’t lose too much moisture yet is brown and crispy.
And also the cut of meat. If using chicken, thighs are always good but breast meat will work just as well & cook quicker.
Check out Broccoli and Beef in Oyster Sauce for more on cuts of beef.
Vegans and Vegetarians
I frequently use firm tofu cubes, sliced thin for this.
Can be cooked on a barbecue or under the grill (broiler).
Traditionally, a whole lot of oil is used to make satay sauce. I am not a fan of this, and skip the oil altogether by just simmering all the ingredients together and cooking the sauce for about 10 minutes. A slightly different slant is to add about 50 ml of coconut milk to the sauce, very common in Thailand.
Sauce can be refrigerated for 3 days and is perfect with so many other things, especially as a salad dressing.
I’ve made satay sauce with hazelnuts and it was delicious, for those of you with peanut allergy. Cashew nuts are also ok but will produce a creamier sauce. satay Serve with the sauce, some cucumber wedges and slices of onion. Some traditional rice cakes called ketupat or lontong are usually also served alongside.
Satay - a favourite Street Food
Serve with the sauce, some cucumber wedges and slices of onion. Some traditional rice cakes called ketupat or lontong are usually also served alongside.