March 28 is being hailed as “Something On A Stick” day according to the many food calendars circulating online, which highlight the many unusual food holidays celebrated across the United States annually.
There are a few “stick” goodies that come to mind. Lollipops, corn dogs and cotton candy to name a few, however, the real 5 star “stick” dish winner in my humble opinion is sate. Of course, I like lollipops, corn dogs and cotton candy as much as the next person but I love sate more, a lot more.
According to Rose binti Sayuti, owner of the RBS Restaurants in Meru and Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, “sate is made from bite-sized chunks of meat marinated in turmeric before being threaded onto bamboo skewers and grilled over a wood or charcoal fire. The grilled meat is most often served with compressed rice known as ketupat, slivers of onions and cucumbers in a sweet and sour dressing and a spicy peanut sauce.”
Sate, also called satay, is widely available throughout the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Phillipines and Thailand from street vendors and food stalls.
Some food historians believe Chinese immigrants selling skewered barbecue meat on the streets were the true inventors of Satay, however, a more plausible theory credits Malay or Javanese street vendors offering an Arabian kebab-like dish with the invention of Satay sometime during the early 19th century when there was a large influx of Arab immigrants settling in the region.
Like shish-kebabs, the recipes and ingredients for sate vary from region to region. The meat of choice by Malaysians, Singaporeans, Phillipines and most Indonesians is chicken, beef or mutton. Amongst Chinese consumers, pork sate, which is served in a pineapple-based sate sauce, or chicken sate are most popular.
In some regions of Indonesia, where sate variations are many, sates are made with an assortment of exotic meats such Sate Kuda, a sate made from horse meat and served with sliced fresh shallots, pepper and a sweet soy sauce; Sate Bulus, a sate made from softshell turtle and served with sliced fresh shallots, pepper and a sweet soy sauce; Sate Torpedo, a sate made from goat testicles marinated in soy sauce and served with peanut sauce, pickles and hot white rice; Sate Telor Muda, a sate made from immature chicken eggs that are obtained from the hen’s reproductive system upon slaughter; and Sate Belut, a sate made from seasoned eel.
My unadventurous taste buds are strictly tuned in to chicken, beef or mutton sate that is served with ketupat, slivers of onions and cucumbers in a sweet and sour dressing and a spicy peanut sauce, which works out well for me as I am able to walk a short distance day or night to satisfy my cravings for sate from the Malaysian street vendors that are scattered about in my area.
For those who aren’t as lucky as myself to have the luxury of sate street vendors within walking distance, I encourage you to try the Chicken Sate and Spicy Peanut Sauce recipes below and then you can decide which “something on a stick” is best – lollipops, cotton candy, corn dogs or Sate.
1 whole chicken, deboned
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
6 shallots, diced
1 teaspoon coriander
1-inch piece of fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stalk lemon grass, crushed at the bottom, for basting chicken during grilling*
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Slice or cube the chicken meat and put aside. Grind together coriander, cummin, turneric, peanuts, salt and sugar. Mix ground ingredients with cinnamon, shallots and 1 tablespoon oil. Combine thoroughly with the chicken and let marinate for an hour.
Thread chicken onto bamboo skewers, as done when making shish-kebabs. For a more tender and flavorful sate thread a piece of chicken skin in the middle of each skewer. The fat will drip onto the other pieces serving as a added seasoning as well as perk up the fire beneath.
Grill over wood or charcoal fire, frequently brushing lemon grass stalk dipped in water to which a small amount of oil has been added. Turn skewers every few minutes and continue basting with lemon grass until the chicken is cooked.
* If lemon grass is not available, blend the juice of a fresh lemon with 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons cooking oil.
Spicy Peanut Sauce
300 gms. peanuts, roasted
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
1-inch piece of galangal (optional)
8 dried red chilies
3 cloves garlic
1 cup sugar
Grind roasted peanuts and set aside. Grind dried chilies, ginger and galangal until fine. Slice onion and stir fry until soft. Add ground chilies, ginger and galangal. Mix well. Add peanuts, salt and sugar. Mix well. Add enough water to increase the volume of the sauce already in the pan three times. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to a pasty consistency.