~ Thai-Style Chicken or Pork Satay w/Peanut Sauce~
Get out the turmeric and attire yourself in something you don't mind discarding because we're making satay today. If your manicure is French, put on a pair of latex gloves too. Why? Because, in case you don't know, turmeric (TER-muh-rihk), that earthy-colored, pleasantly-fragrant powdered-spice (that rarely gets used in American cooking) will permanently paint your world a vivid yellow-orange. Made from grinding the rhizome root of the curcumin plant and a close relative of ginger, it's a prime ingredient in curry and mustard powders, and, it's used to give many of the rice dishes, soups and sauces of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa a mildly-spicy, earthy flavor along with a signature yellow-orange color.
A bit about satay (sah-TAY): Satay originated in Java, Indonesia. It's said that the Javanese street vendors adapted their version from Indian kabobs after the influx of Muslim Tamil Indians and Arab immigrants to Dutch East Indies in the early 19th century. Its popularity spread quickly to other Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia and Malaysia, satay is primarily made with lamb or beef, and, in China and Thailand, chicken and pork is preferred. All satay consists of small marinated cubes or thinly-sliced meat or poultry threaded on bamboo skewers and grilled.
Throughout Southeast Asia a wide variety of satays are served and sold in numerous ways: it's a favorite snack food that's grilled and eaten at home; it's sold by traveling satay vendors as well as street-side vendors in tent-restaurants; it's on the menus of fine-dining restaurants, and; it's found at private and public festivals, celebrations and ceremonies too.
Satay is mostly served as an appetizer or snack, but, occasionally you'll come across it served as a main dish accompanied by noodles and crudité. Satay is always served with peanut sauce (directions below) and often accompanied by a crunchy cucumber salad. Click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe for ~ Oh My Thai: Spicy Quick-Pickled Cucumber Relish ~.
A bit about peanut sauce: Like turmeric, this sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa. The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. A spice paste made from red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and/or lemongrass, are added too. My recipe contains one can of Thai red curry paste, which contains all of the above spices.
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste*
1 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stir after opening the can)
6 tablespoons smooth or crunchy-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar** (light or dark brown sugar may be substituted
~Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar. Continue to simmer steadily but gently, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes. Serve slightly warm, or, place in a food storage container (or two) and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature. Store indefinitely in the refrigerator and reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally prior to serving.
Slicing the pork loin & the chicken tenders:
To make satay, I use pork loin (not the smaller pork tenderloins) or chicken tenders exclusively. You'll need 1-1 1/4 pounds of loin or tenders. That is 1/8th of this inexpensive 8-pound pork loin or 6 large chicken tenders.
Thread each piece of pork & chicken onto its own 8" bamboo skewer:
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon powdered turmeric
2 tablespoons palm sugar (light or brown sugar may be substituted)
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons smooth or crunchy-style peanut butter
Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a steady simmer, stirring almost constantly. When the peanut butter is thoroughly incorporated, continue to simmer, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. The marinade will be slightly-thickened and smooth with small bits of peanuts throughout. Transfer to a 2-cup measuring container.
~ Step 2. Tip from Mel: The cleanest way I have found to marinate the skewers, which keeps the bamboo "handle" clean and dry (which is a big help when grilling), is to pick up each satay, dip it into the marinade then stand it up in a 1-quart disposable plastic container. Don't worry if the top of the skewer does not get coated -- that will happen in a few minutes.
Note: I save containers from cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt each year just for the purpose of marinating satays and kabobs of many types. If you don't have any on hand, 1-quart-sized wide-mouthed mason jars work well too. I just throw the plastic ones away when the satays or kabobs go on the grill -- how easy is that.
Once all of the satays are in the containers, you will still have about half of the marinade left. Drizzle it into the centers of and evenly between the two containers. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush the marinade over the tops and work it down in between the skewers.
Cover containers with plastic wrap, place them in the refrigerator and marinate for 4-6-8 hours or overnight and up to 24 hours.
Grill the satay on your own terms under your own conditions:
Use what you've got -- anything that looks and acts like a grill will work. Just be well familiarized with how it works so you can control the heat perfectly. Joe and I do it outside on our gas grill over indirect heat, and, I've done it over medium-high heat on my stovetop using a large, rectangular double-burner grill pan too. In both cases, the satays cook in 4-5 minutes per side.
My favorite: this vintage & inexpensive countertop DAZEY "bar-b-grill":
Circa 1995. I came across this less-than-$20.00 countertop appliance at our local K-Mart. It was Fall and I was hosting a tailgate party in our home for a PSU away game. I was serving Thai food, and, satay was on the menu. For the price, I decided to buy one. I tried it out. It exceeded my expectations. The black ceramic base keeps the unit cool to the touch, which means it is safe to place on any type of surface. It works like an electric skillet does, which allows me to control the heat perfectly too. I went back to K-Mart and bought a second one the next day. I set them both up on our rec-room bar. I grilled and served satay appetizers to our guests while Joe mixed and poured drinks. To this day I use one or both grills, placed on my kitchen countertop, exclusively for grilling satay over medium-high for 5 minutes per side.
Grill over medium-high heat indoors or indirect heat outdoors...
Thai-Style Chicken or Pork Satay w/Peanut Sauce: Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups peanut sauce and instructions to marinate and grill 12 pork satay and 12 chicken satay/24 total appetizers or snacks/6 servings at 4 satay per person/8 servings at 3 satay per person.
Special Equipment List: 1-quart saucepan; spoon; 2-cup food storage container; 2-quart saucepan; 24 bamboo skewers; 2-cup measuring container; 2, 1-quart sized disposable plastic containers or wide-mouthed mason-type jars; silicone pastry brush; plastic wrap; small indoor electric countertop grill, large, double-burner stovetop grillpan, or, outdoor gas grill
Cook's Note: When my three sons were growing up, they loved it when I made satay, and, when I served it, it was usually for a Summertime dinner on the deck. My relatively easy-to-make ~ Cold 'Chicken Noodle Salad' w/Thai Peanut Sauce ~ was hands down our whole family's favorite side-dish for satay. The recipe can be found in Categories, 2, 3, 10, 13 or 14.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)