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CIMG0709On my first night in Singa­pore a couple of months ago I had din­ner at a long plastic table at a hawker centre – rather like a large out­door food court. There were a num­ber of these out­door vendors with their smoky bar­be­cues along­side each oth­er, all pur­port­ing to serve the best in town – we chose ‘Best Satay Num­ber 10’. They were spin­ning the satay sticks expertly over char­coal before plat­ing them up along­side some of the most deli­ciously sweet, salty, spicy satay sauce I’d ever had.

We were in a large group, passing the plates down the table; beef and chick­en mainly, and along­side cheap jugs of Tiger beer it was one of my favour­ite meals of the trip.

Satay isn’t only reserved for cheap out­door din­ing though; it’s also served at high-end res­taur­ants, and I ate it on the plane too. With bar­be­cue sea­son approach­ing us back in Wel­ling­ton, I thought a bit of Asi­an flare would make a nice change from the stand­ard fare. Mak­ing the accom­pa­ny­ing satay sauce is sat­is­fy­ing once you taste it, and no doubt will impress your guests. I’m cross­ing my fin­gers for some long balmy nights, and dream­ing of Asia in the meantime.

Chicken Satay


  • 8 bone­less and skin­less chick­en thighs

Spice paste for chick­en marinade

  • 1 tsp ground cori­ander seeds
  • 2 stalks lem­on­grass, white parts only
  • 6 shal­lots, peeled
  • 2 cloves gar­lic, peeled
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp liquid honey
  • 4 tbsp cook­ing oil

Satay sauce

  • 1½ cups dry-roas­ted peanuts
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tbsp tam­ar­ind pulp (avail­able at Asi­an food stores), soaked in ¼ cup water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tam­ar­ind pulp for the liquid and dis­card the pulp
  • 1 cup water
  • 1½ tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • ⅛ tsp salt

Spice paste for satay sauce

  • 6–8 dried red chil­lies, de-seeded and soaked in warm water
  • 3 cloves gar­lic, peeled
  • 3 shal­lots, peeled
  • 2 stalks lem­on­grass, white parts only
  • 2cm cube fresh ginger

To serve

  • Bam­boo skewers
  • 1 cucum­ber, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 small onion, quartered


  1. For the mar­in­ade, place all the ingredi­ents except the cook­ing oil in a food pro­cessor and com­bine. With the motor run­ning, add the oil until a paste is formed.
  2. Cut the chick­en into cubes and mar­in­ate for at least 8 hours (prefer­ably overnight).
  3. For the satay sauce, crush the pea­nuts in a food pro­cessor until coarsely chopped, then set aside.
  4. Place all the sauce spice paste ingredi­ents in a food pro­cessor and blend until fine.
  5. Heat the oil in a fry­ing pan on a medi­um-high heat and fry the blen­ded spice paste until aro­mat­ic. Add the pea­nuts, tam­ar­ind juice, water, sug­ar, sweet soy sauce and salt, and stir thoroughly.
  6. Sim­mer on a low heat, stir­ring con­tinu­ously for about 3 minutes until the pea­nut sauce turns smooth. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  7. Soak the bam­boo skew­ers in water for an hour, then thread them with the mar­in­ated chicken.
  8. Bar­be­cue or grill the skew­ers for 2–3 minutes on each side, depend­ing on the thick­ness of your chicken.
  9. Serve imme­di­ately with the satay sauce, raw onion and raw cucum­ber chunks.

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