Malaysian Chicken Satay

Satay Ayam


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.

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  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, trimmed and sliced very thin, about 1/16 inch (.1 cm.)
  • 4 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Finely grated galangal
  • ½ cup Granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. Ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp. Ground, peanuts, roasted in dry pan or ground fried peanuts
  • 2 lb. (914 grams) Chicken thighs, boneless, fat on, skin-off, cut in ½ to ¾-inch (1.3 to 2 cm.) squares
  • 30 each Bamboo skewers, about 10 inches (25.4 cm.) long, soaked in warm water 1 hour
  • 2 medium Cucumber, Kirby variety preferred, bite size pieces, about 1 inch
  • ½ small Red onion, small bite size pieces, about ½ inch (1.3 cm.)
  • 1 recipe Compressed rice cakes (ketupat), (optional)
  • 1 recipe Malaysian peanut sauce (sos kacang),


  1. Make the marinade: In a blender, puree lemongrass, garlic, galangal, and as much water as is necessary to facilitate blending, until it becomes a smooth marinade. Transfer to a bowl; add sugar, salt, turmeric, and peanuts. Pour marinade over chicken. Massage thoroughly (you may wish to use gloves or tongs, since the marinade will stain your fingers). Marinate covered in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  2. Skewer the satay: Pierce the marinated chicken onto skewers, aiming for the center of meat so that it lays flat on skewers. Arrange three to five pieces onto each skewer, leaving space at the blunt end of the skewer for handling.
  3. Make the accompaniments: Wash cucumbers, trim off ends. Cut ½-inch chunks on varying angles to create odd bite-size wedges. Trim off the ends of the onions, cut into ½-inch (1.3 cm.) dice. Arrange on plate with compressed rice cakes.
  4. Grill the satays: Grill over glowing coals or in a grill pan, turning often, until they are cooked through and the marinade has caramelized.
  5. Serve with peanut sauce, compressed rice cakes, cucumbers and red onions.