I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chicken Satay

Satay is a national dish in Malaysia and I have not met a single Malaysian who does not like satay, unless they avoid it for health reasons. Satay is simply a dish where marinated meat are cooked on open fire and served on skewers. Think “kebabs”. The two most common meats are chicken and beef but, in some places, you can find venison and rabbit satay, both of which I have not tried. There are four main components to a successful satay dish:
a)  Selection of meat --- it has to be dark meat such as chicken thighs/legs. White meat such as breast is simply the wrong meat to use if you want an authentic satay dish.
b)  Marinade --- very important component.
c)  Cooking method --- cooking on an open flame such as charcoal yields the best result because of the “charred” effect. Baking or pan-searing is the next best option albeit a poor substitution
d)  Peanut dipping sauce --- there needs to be some “heat” which is balanced by sweetness.

Chicken Satay (www.rasamalaysia.com)

Many restaurants in New York City, especially Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, serve satay as appetizer. Most of the places that I tried failed in one, if not more, of the main components listed above. Frustrated with not finding a satay dish that I am satisfied with, I have decided to take things into my own hand since I now have access to an outdoor grill.

One of the Malaysian cuisine blogs that I turn to from time to time is www.rasamalaysia.com. The author of the site has provided a stellar list of dishes and the recipes are usually tried, tested and improved.

Bellow is the recipe from www.rasamalaysia.com. The red color words are mine

Chicken Satay Recipe

4 chicken legs and thighs (preferred) or 4 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless) (please, no chicken breast). I used chicken wings (approximately 10) because it cook faster.

Spice Paste:
1 teaspoon coriander powder (I use ½ tablespoon instead)
2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only
  (very important ingredient, you must not omit this)
6 shallots (peeled)
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
4 tablespoons cooking oil (
I used close to 1/3 cup, I find that 4 tablespoons of oil is insufficient to make a paste)
1 teaspoon chili powder (
I used ½ tablespoon because I like my satay to have some heat)
2 teaspoons turmeric powder (kunyit)
  (This is an essential ingredient. Although its main purpose is to provide the distinct yellow color on satay, I believe turmeric provides flavor that I don’t know how to describe. I used 1 tablespoon)
4 teaspoons of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) (
another essential ingredient. The sweetness of the dish brings out the flavor. I used 2 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon oyster sauce (
I personally think this is optional)
Bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 2 hours to avoid burning)

Bellow is the method, with my own modification noted in red letters

As a recap, the recipe asked for 4 chicken legs/breasts cut into small pieces but I used 10 chicken wings and grilled it whole.

1.  Grind the Spice Paste in a food processor. Add in a little water if needed. (I added a splash of soy sauce instead of water to add flavor).
2.  Marinate the chicken with the spice paste for 10-12 hours (or overnight).
3.  Thread the meat onto the bamboo skewers. I thread the wings onto the bamboo skewers. It takes some practice to straighten the wings on the bamboo skewers
4.  Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve. (This cooking time is just a guide. The time varies depending on the intensity of your heat source. Grilling takes practice, you can read up on the tips/techniques on the internet)

      The last component of this dish is the peanut dipping sauce. Since I did not make this sauce to go along with my satay chicken wings, I will simply provide you with the link to the recipe. Rest assured I will report it here when I make the sauce.  Satay peanut dipping sauce recipe http://rasamalaysia.com/malaysian-sataynow-with-peanut-sauce/2/

My version of Chicken Satay with whole chicken wings

      I am tremendously surprised by how good the chicken wing tasted. This dish received high praises all around from my food-testers. The crispy slightly-charred skin, the tender meat and the aroma, oh yes, the aroma, hit me off my socks. This is EXACTLY how satay smells and tastes like back home. It has been two weeks since I made this dish, the experience of eating the chicken wings still lingers in my memory, hopefully my food-testers' mind too. Can't wait to make satay again while the weather still permits.


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