Whenever I make chicken satay, it brings back fond memories of my childhood growing up in Malaysia. Satay was one of my favorite meals as a kid (and it still is today!) I loved watching the “satay man” furiously fan the coals to keep them hot – enough to make the flames rise up to char the meat perfectly.
In Malaysia and Singapore, satay is traditionally served with peanut sauce, cucumber, red onion and ketupat (rice cakes). You’ll also find other meats such as beef, pork and mutton used for satay. It originated in Indonesia but is now wildly popular all over the world. The recipe varies from region to region. In Thailand, for instance, coconut milk is used to give it a rich, coconuty flavor.
In Malaysia, the predominant spices are fresh lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, ground coriander and a hint of ground cumin. The brown sugar in the marinade gives it a sweet flavor but also helps caramelize the meat.
Every once in a while, when I crave satay but don’t want to go through the hassle of skewering and grilling the meat, I just skip that step and just pan-fry it. Goes great with a bowl of steamed rice.
How to Make Malaysian Chicken Satay
First, prepare the marinade by blending 2 – 3 small shallots, about 1 cm of fresh galangal or fresh ginger, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 stalks of finely chopped fresh lemongrass (use only the pale portion) or 2 tablespoons of finely chopped frozen lemongrass, and 2 Tbsp of peanut oil in a food processor. The Magic Bullet Blender works perfectly for this task.
Pour the marinade over about 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs (cut into small bite-sized pieces), then add 3 teaspoons of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Give the chicken a good massage to get all those spices in there.
I find that it’s easier to marinate the chicken with your hands rather than a spoon. Pro tip: When marinating the chicken with your hands, I highly recommend using gloves to keep from getting your hands stained by the turmeric. I always keep a box of disposable exam gloves in my kitchen.
Put a plastic wrap over the bowl and let the chicken sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Best if left to marinate overnight.
When you’re about ready to grill, soak the Bamboo Skewers in water for at least 1 hour before using. This will keep them from burning too quickly on the grill. Put the chicken on the skewers (about 3 little bite-sized pieces per skewer). Again, use gloves for this task.
Grill over high heat until fully cooked. You’ll know it’s ready when the outside starts to char just a little.
Serve with roughly chopped cucumber, red onion and of course, Malaysian Satay Sauce. If you’re in a pinch and don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, here is the prepared sauce I use and recommend:
I hope you give this recipe a try!
Malaysian Chicken Satay
- 2 - 3 small shallots
- 1 cm fresh galangal or ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass finely chopped (use only white portion) or 2 Tbsp finely chopped frozen lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 lbs chicken thighs boneless, skinless, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 3 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Bamboo skewers approx. 30
- Blend shallot, ginger and garlic, lemongrass and oil in a food processor or blender.
- Pour mixture over chicken.
- Add ground coriander, cumin, turmeric powder, brown sugar and salt.
- Give the chicken a good massage to get all those spices in there. (Tip: use a clean latex-free glove so you don't get your hands yellow!)
- Let it marinade for at least 2 hours; up to overnight, in the fridge.
- Soak the bamboo skewers for at least 1 hour before using.
- Put the chicken on the skewers...about 3 little pieces per skewer.
- Grill over high heat until very slightly charred on the outside.
- Serve with roughly chopped cucumber, red onion, and your favorite peanut sauce.