Search This Blog

Friday, January 21, 2011

Satay & A (virtual) Trip to South East Asia

I have never been to Asia, unfortunately, but the dream trip there has been in the pipeline for quite a long time. 

Deceived by the internet and by the general speed at which we travel with these days, some people say the world is small. Quite to the contrary, the world is vast and diverse. Every land has it own customs, laws, etiquette, local foods and dishes, stories, routines, dialects, peculiarities, and, generally, a way of doing things that might seem strange back home. 

There is "a method in my madness", as Hamlet would  say - it is not a mad world we live in, but a beautiful, eclectic one waiting to be discovered. 

A couple of years ago I discovered satay. I make it quite often. The other day I found coconut milk in the supermarket and needless to say, I stocked up :)) Sometimes I find it hard to get fresh ingredients to cook Asian (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese etc), but to make satay is quite effortless, once you have the milk, the spices and the meat. 

Satay skewers with baby lettuce & peanut butter dip

Type of cuisine: Asian (I know, it's a profane term to define this dish, but there are so many ways of making satay)
Difficulty: medium
Cooking time: early preparations: 15- 20 minutes; to marinade: minimum 2 hours; grilling and satay dip: 30 minutes

This is a step-by-step recipe, I hope you won't think I am taking the liberty of teaching you how to make satay, but writing it in stages will help me clear my thoughts, as I did it stages. 

Stage 1: Early preparations: chop the chicken in square chunks, make the paste for the marinade and chop the veggies 

Stage 2: Marinade

Stage 3: Grill the skewers and make the peanut butter dip

To make the marinade you will need:

2 tsp coriander seeds 

2 tsp chopped lemongrass

2 cloves of garlic

1 x 3 cm cube of ginger, sliced

2 tsp sweet chilly powder

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

star anise

2 shallots  (or half an onion)

4 tbsp sweet soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

4 tbsp peanut oil (any nut oil, or olive oil, will do as a substitute)

what a beautiful, vibrant colour


Place coriander, lemon grass, garlic, onion, ginger, chilly powder and anise in food grinder to make a powder. Place in a small bowl, and stir in the soy sauce, oil, fish sauce. Stir well to make a creamy paste. 

Cut the chicken into 3 cm (approx) cubes and marinate in paste for at least 2 hours. 

Chop red and green peppers and a large onion into skewer sized pieces. 

Soak 10 wooden skewers in water for at least 2 hours (to avoid burning).

Prior to cooking, thread vegetables and pieces alternatively onto skewers leaving at least 1.5 - 2 cm at either end free.

For the dipping sauce, you will need: 

2 tbsp nut oil

1 small onion, very finely chopped

4 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp crushed coriander seeds

200ml coconut milk

2 heaped tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp light soy sauce

juice of 1/4 of a lemon

1/4 tsp chilli powder


Fry the onion, cumin, and coriander in oil, until the onions start to brown. Reduce heat. 

Add peanut butter and stir until softened to a creamy paste. 

Add coconut milk, vinegar, and sugar, and stir until fully dissolved. 

Add soy sauce and lemon. 

Finally add chilli powder. For a milder sauce, add less chilli. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to pan.

Serving suggestion

Two or three skewers per person with Thai jasmine rice (my favourite) and salad of (preferably iceberg) lettuce and radishes.  Use the sauce as a dip.

The secret of a good Asian dish?  Read, read, read, learn about spices and sample them, taste to balance the flavours, mix and match to suit your taste (mild/medium/hot), increase or decrease the spices as you wish (as long as you understand how each element of the dish can work out for you). 


  1. Si mie de ce nu mi-ai oferit asa o mancare asiatica bine echilibrata in flavors?

  2. ...maybe because I don't know you? :) Anyway, you can read more delicious and well-balanced recipes and their embedded stories on lemonlovenotes. x

  3. @ Anonymous (now that I know who you are), te iubesc xx

  4. @Yolanda,
    I'll enjoy next time your balanced flavours!

  5. I love chicken satay. First time I had it in Singapore, in one of their famous street food markets and it was unbelievable! Can't wait to try your recipe :)

  6. Please do and tell me all about it :) x