Fanning the glowing fire as he flipped skewers of golden-hued meat, increasing their alluring char, Lajis grudgingly revealed a secret to me: for special customers he adds ground-roasted peanuts to the marinade. At his hawker stalls in Kuala Lumpur, his cooks grill and serve mountains of this bamboo-borne snack, and pile them onto tables for guests to help themselves. At the end of the snack, customers simply count the number of skewers and pay accordingly: not too long ago they were ten cents a stick (peanut sauce, cucumbers and red onions included).
Here are a few more insider tips from the hawkers: Firstly, make a lemongrass basting brush. The woody tops of lemongrass stalks fray into fibrous bristles when pounded with the handle of a knife, creating a brush. Use this to apply juices and marinade to the meat as it grills. Soaking the skewers may not completely prevent them from burning on the grill but it sure slows them down. To really prevent burning, arrange the skewers so that their exposed ends hang off the edge of the grill. Make sure to push the coals to the edges of grill (pg. 111).
When Malaysians eat satay, they use their spent skewers to spear crisp cucumbers and onions and dip them in peanut sauce. They nosh, alternating between the spicy charred meat and the refreshing vegetables.
© 2008 Robert Danhi. All rights reserved.