Sunday, December 1, 2013

Satay (aka. skewering chicken mercilessly)

Have you ever had the urge to skewer something...? Say... like, you know... chickens? Well, fear not! I have the remedy right here! (Actually, I hope not. Chickens are nice, they're cute and fluffy, and they peck at you lovingly and chase you out of their coop curiously... well, you get the idea...)

Satay is a blanket word for "skewered meat". Not the kabob style skewering. In Indonesian cuisine (at least that I know of) satay only consist of meat marinated in some seasonings (or boiled, ref: seasoned pork satay) and then skewered before being grilled. Yes, sometimes this means twice cooking them.

Indonesia is a Muslim country, hence most of the time satay means chicken or goat (or lamb, they're interchangeable, really, we don't have the wool-producing kind). Where I live, when I say satay, unless there's an animal name tagged on to it afterwards, I mean it as "chicken".

Satay is one of those seemingly difficult dish to make but surprisingly simple and not fussy at all. Really, the hardest thing you'll ever have to do is to skewer the meat onto the bamboo skewers. And that's all... Well, unless you count the cutting of the chicken and the mixing of the peanut sauce as hard. It is a fun meal to make and eat and it can be used as snack, side dish, or its own meal.

When I was younger, this was my go to meal at school. For Rp. 1000.00 (approx. 10 cents) when I was in high school, I got 10 skewers of satay with a sleeve (about 4-5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter) of rice cake (probably about a cup worth of packed cooked rice). Filling, delicious, and cheap.

Anyways, let's move on with the recipe. I'm trying a new thing here where I added pictures as I go along the directions. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. But heck... a picture is worth more than a thousand words, right?

Chicken Satay


For the chicken:
1 bag of frozen chicken breast (approx. 3 lbs. of chicken breast)
1/4 cup of sweet soy sauce
3-4 tbs of salty soy sauce
4-5 cloves of garlic minced (optional)

For the basting sauce (optional):
2-3 tbs sweet soy sauce
1-2 tbs lime juice

For the peanut sauce:
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup hot water
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tbs lime juice
2-3 tbs sweet soy sauce
7-8 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1/2 - 1 tbs corriander powder (optional)
Salt, sugar to taste
Pureed/mashed birds eye chili (optional)

1. Cube chicken about 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch (or as shown):

2. Marinate chicken overnight (or for 3-4 hours)
3. The next day, skewer the chicken using previously wetted bamboo skewers (this is to prevent burning when they're grilled). About 3-4 cubes per skewer (as shown): (this recipe makes approx. 25-30 satays)

4. Grill the satay for 2-3 minutes on each side, basting with basting sauce for each side.
5. In the meantime, prepare the peanut sauce by diluting peanut butter in warm water.
6. Saute minced garlic and kaffir lime leaves and add to the diluted peanut butter. Add soy sauce, corriander powder, lime juice, sugar and salt (also birds eye chili pepper, if using)..
7. To serve, lather the sauce onto the satay right before serving.

1. If you want the sauce to have a thicker consistency, add more peanut butter. Peanut butter and water is how to adjust the thickness of the sauce. So play with it and try several different consistency. If you don't know which consistency you like most, then add half of the recommended amount of water above. It's much easier to dilute.
2. I like my peanut sauce to have that dark brown hue and slightly drier. To achieve this, heat the mixture of peanut sauce on low on the stove top for about 20-30 minutes. If you do this, you'll have to frequently skim the oil off of the sauce using a somewhat flat spoon (shown):

3. You can use the basting sauce as marinating sauce. There really isn't an ironclad rule about which sauce to marinate with. Some people didn't even bother to marinate. I always like to marinate, this way, if anyone's allergic to peanut, one can still enjoy the satay without the sauce.
4. If you want to serve chili sauce on the side, I suggest using sambal type chili sauce. If you want to make this yourself, it's really just crushed birds eye chili with water and a little bit of salt and vinegar. So, your call. 
5. Try getting the most all natural peanut butter ever. That additional sugar, molasses, etc constitute a very distinctive taste. Your local grocer/farmers' market may have store made peanut butter. If you want to make it yourself, just fry raw peanuts until golden brown and ground them. You can use a short cut with salted peanut, although be careful to adjust the amount of salt/sugar added to the peanut sauce. I ended up using peanut butter but I also ended up suing twice the amount of kaffir lime leaves and garlic than the recipe called to get rid of that "peanut butter" taste.
6. When skewering, do skewer perpendicular to the muscle fiber. It'll be less "torn" even if it sticks a bit. 
7. There's no ironclad rule how many chicken meat per skewer. I just use general rule of thumb that someone should be able to grip the skewer when eating, so that amounts to about 50% of the skewer occupied by the meat, leaving the other half free for people's hands. 

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