Lemongrass fish sate


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

In the Hindu ceremonies of Bali, sate plays an important part. Whilst women twist palm leaves into intricate offerings for the gods, men create elaborate meaty offerings from sate sticks. These represent the animal kingdom to complement the women’s plant kingdom. Of the many varieties, spiced minced fish and prawn sate are extra special. Wrapped around a stick of lemongrass, they are best eaten with your fingers to get the full fragrant citrus hit.


  • 3 fat lemongrass sticks
  • 2 lime leaves, deveined and finely chopped
  • 150 g ( oz) skinless mackerel fillets, roughly chopped
  • 100 g ( oz) raw peeled prawns
  • 30 g (1 oz) grated fresh or rehydrated coconut
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons dark palm sugar (gula jawa), grated
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Bumbu spice paste

  • 2 large red chillies, seeded
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) ginger, peeled
  • 1.5 cm ( inch) turmeric, peeled, or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 small red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 3 candlenuts or 5 blanched almonds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
  • grating of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons oil


Cut the lemongrass sticks in quarters lengthways to make thin skewers. Set aside the 10 sturdiest ones for the sate and finely chop the white part of the remaining two pieces and add to the ingredients for the bumbu spice paste.

Roughly chop the remaining fresh ingredients for the bumbu. Blend in a food processor along with the spices, seasonings and oil to make a smooth paste. Scrape into a pan and add the shredded lime leaves. Fry until fragrant, then leave to cool.

Tip the mackerel and prawns into the food processor (don’t worry about residual spice in there) and blitz until just minced. Transfer to a bowl and add the coconut, salt, 1 teaspoon of the palm sugar and the bumbu. Mix together. If it seems very moist, you can add up to a tablespoon of cornflour to help bind the mixture.

Use oiled hands to mould the mixture around one end of each of the lemongrass skewers, pressing together firmly to form a kebab. Chill in the fridge until ready to cook.

Mix the remaining palm sugar with the oil and soy sauce and brush over the sate.

The sate are traditionally cooked on a charcoal barbecue, but a hot grill pan makes a perfectly acceptable substitute. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, turning often and basting with more sugared oil as they cook.