19 November 2012

Peanut Butter: Satay chicken

One of the girls from work has just come back from 3 weeks of sunshine and satay sticks in Bali looking brown and relaxed... meanwhile it rained overnight in Melbourne and I am still very Vitamin D deficient! While I have to wait for the warmer weather, and even then it can be unpredictable, I can make satay sticks as aromatic and moreish as those found in Bali so at least that's something...

Several years ago when I was 18, my mum and I travelled to Bali and I took my first cooking class abroad. Already bitten by the travel bug this firmly cemented my love of exotic ingredients and techniques and I have combined travel, cooking and eating ever since. One of the things we cooked that time was the ubiquitous chicken satay that you see street vendors fanning lines of on open grills, aromatic smoke filling the night sky, combining so many fresh flavours to create tender deeply fragranced chicken pieces with a nutty but not oily or heavy sauce. While the recipe from that trip is in some long lost notebook, I remember the flavours so have put them together in the recipe below.
If you don't like or don't have one of the ingredients - don't add it, if you love chilli or ginger - add more. If you are gluten free, use GF soy sauce instead of the sweet Indonesian soy sauce and add a touch more brown sugar. This recipe also works well for beef or tofu.

  • 500g chicken thighs
  • satay sticks
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste, soaked and sieved
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh galangal or fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Satay sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger or galangal, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek (unsweetened chilli sauce)
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 7 tablespoons hot water
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • finely chopped kaffir lime leaf (optional, only use if you have fresh young leaves)
  1. combine all marinade ingredients in a food processor (or mortar and pestel) and combine
  2. cut chicken into small pieces, rub on marinade and cover in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight
  3. thread chicken onto soaked wooden skewers ready for cooking
  4. saute finely chopped garlic and shallot in a small pan over medium heat until shallot is translucent, 5 mins (do not brown), add cumin, nutmeg and ginger and stir for 1 minute, until aromatic
  5. add chilli, peanut butter, soy sauce, coconut milk and brown sugar and stir well to combine, at this point the sauce may begin to split - that's normal
  6. add hot water and STIR, if your sauce is still splitting, slowly add more water and keep on a low heat - it seems counter intuitive to add water to oily things but the most common problem people find making satay sauce is that it seems thick and gloopy and this is because they didn't add enough water
  7. cook chicken sticks on BBQ or under grill, turning frequently until just cooked (using smaller pieces means they cook faster and will be more moist than waiting for a big piece to cook in the middle while dry and blackened on the outside).
  8. serve with rice, satay sauce and a wedge of lime!

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