I would like to share how to prepare the Malaysian chicken satay in the article.
The best satay is from a tiny town called Kajang in Malaysia. Due to its popularity, many satay stores in other cities tried to piggy ride on the name and called their satay ‘Kajang satay’ to attract customers.
The origin of satay
Satay is one of the Malay cuisines introduced in Java, Indonesia. It is known to be inspired by kebab, the internationally renowned cuisine in Arab and Middle Eastern countries.
Satay is a street food made of marinated meat grilled on bamboo skewers with a sauce. It can be chicken, mutton, beef, pork, or other meats.
Satay is recognized as a national dish of Indonesia. However, satay is also a delicacy in many Southeast Asia countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. It is known as ‘satay’ in Malaysia and Singapore, whereas, in Indonesia, it is called ‘sate’, which carries the same meaning.
Sate Ayam (chicken satay) of Indonesia is prepared from chicken marinated in a mixture of coriander, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, fresh ginger, salt, and pepper combined with an Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis). Malaysian satay is prepared by blending shallots, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger into a smooth paste, whereas Thai chicken satay is made with fish sauce.
The best chicken satay recipe
Galangal and lemongrass are heavily used in this Malaysian chicken satay recipe. It also includes belacan, a local salted shrimp paste, to enhance the flavor. Here is the step-by-step guide on how we make it.
1. Prepare the chicken
The preparation begins with cutting the chicken meat into bite-size pieces of 1.5 cm cubes.
You can use either chicken breast or chicken thighs. However, the chicken breast meat will easily turn too dry if it is overcooked. Chicken thigh meat has better tolerance and stays tender and succulent if you grill it until golden brown. The choice is yours, and I am using breast meat in this recipe.
2. Get ready for the marinade
Do not put off just because there is a long list of ingredients in the recipe. Once you get all the ingredients, the next step is incredibly simple.
I have divided them into two groups.
The first group (powder and liquid)
The first group of ingredients for the marinade comprises ingredients in the form of powder and liquids. They are turmeric powder, sugar, ground white pepper, coriander powder, fennel powder, cumin powder, sweet soy sauce, and salt.
However, if you want to make your satay exceptionally flavorful, try to use as many fresh ingredients as possible.
I do not use fresh turmeric, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds instead of store-bought powder for its simplicity. Most of us will find that the list of ingredients is a bit overwhelming, but I will use fresh ingredients if I prepare to serve them during an important function.
Sweet soy sauce. This sauce is the Indonesian-type soy sauce, not the Chinese light or dark soy sauce. It is neither Japanese Shoyu nor Vietnamese fish sauce. The taste is entirely different. You should be able to buy it from the Asian grocery store and easily purchase it online from Amazon.
Sugar. It is alright to use white or brown sugar, but palm sugar (called gula Malaka in Malay) has a distinct toffee flavor. You can also get palm sugar online.
The second group (ingredients that need to blend with a food processor)
Red onion. Wash, peel and cut the red onions into large chunks and add to the food processor. You can also use shallots, but it is more tedious to clean and peel. The result will not make a huge difference.
Galangal. Clean and cut the skin away. Galangal is a type of ginger with a strong flavor. It is widely used in Malay and Indonesian cuisine. Always use a sharp knife to cut the galangal since it is much harder than regular ginger.
Tip: Cut the galangal into small pieces or thin slices before placing them into the food processor. In my experience, the food processor cannot handle large pieces of galangal. Large chunks are not only hard to chew, but they are also ineffective in imparting their flavor to the chicken meat.
Lemongrass. Cut away the stem and the green section of the lemongrass. Remove the outer sheath that is tough. Use only the tender section of the bulb, which is off-white. Give it a good smash on the chopping board, and cut them into short segments.
Belacan. Belacan is a salted shrimp paste from Malaysia with a strong savory taste. It is a welcome addition to the recipe as it boosts the flavor. Anyone familiar with Malaysian cuisine will immediately recognize its authentic flavor.
Belacan is optional if you intend to grill some satay with a universal flavor. Most Indonesian and Thai satay does not include this item.
Belacan is sold in blocks, similar to the size of a block of butter. It is sticky and with the texture of cheese (although the color is completely different as it is dark brown). Therefore, adding to the food processor is best to ensure it is mixed uniformly with the other ingredients.
Use oil to blend instead of water
Add some vegetable oil to the food processor, so it is easier to blend the ingredients. I prefer oil over water as it is part of the marinade.
3. Marinate the chicken
Combine the ingredients in the first and second groups with the chicken. Marinate it for at least three hours before grilling, or better for at least 24 hours if time is permitted.
You can also make it in advance by freezing the marinated meat. It should be good for at least two weeks in the freezer.
4. Grill the chicken
The best way to grill the chicken is to charcoal grill over an open fire. Nevertheless, not all of us have the luxury of having a barbecue pit at home. I am using a grill pan which yields an excellent result.
Soak the bamboo skewers in water for half an hour before using them. Wet skewers will not get charred easily and resist the grill’s heat.
Pierce the skewer through the pieces of chicken meat. Leave a small gap between each piece of meat so they will not be too congested and cause difficulty to cook through.
Grill the chicken skewers over a small flame until the satay turns golden brown with some char marks. Add some additional oil if necessary. Do not overcook the meat, especially chicken breast, as it will become tough.
The Malaysian chicken satay is best served with a special peanut dipping sauce. In summary, satay sauce is made with ground peanuts, coconut milk (coconut cream), chili, garlic, onion, palm sugar, and tamarind paste (or assam keping). It is slightly spicy with a hint of sweetness. I have a recipe for the spicy peanut satay sauce in a separate post. You can serve it with rice cakes (ketupat).
Meanwhile, you may enjoy the original flavor of the satays without the sauce. It is different from a kebab, and you got to taste it to believe how good it is.
Note: If you order satay from a Thai restaurant, you will find that the Thai satay recipe tastes different from the Malaysian version. That is because the ingredients for marinating the sate are different.
If you like this easy chicken satay recipe, you may also like the following famous Malaysian cuisines:
- Malaysian tomato rice – very flavorful rice best serve with ayam masak merah.
- Kapitan chicken – a famous Nyonya-style curry chicken that is less spicy.
- Char kuey teow – typical Malaysian Chinese street food style fried noodles.
The Malaysian Chicken Satay Recipe
Malaysian Chicken Satay Recipe
Chicken satay is prepared with the chicken meat marinated with a myriad of spices and grilled to perfection. This Malaysian chicken satay recipe is tender and succulent and can be prepared with a grilled pan.
- 1kg chicken meat
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 80g sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons fennel powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup (about 125ml) vegetable oil
- 1 medium size onion (about 120g)
- 10 cloves garlic
- 120 g galangal
- 10g belacan
- 70g lemongrass
- Cut the chicken meat into bite-size pieces of 1.5 cm cubes.
- Cut some chicken skin into small pieces for later use.
- Add Marinade (A) with the chicken
- Cut the ingredients in Marinade (B)into small pieces and blend with the vegetable oil until it becomes a paste. Combine with the chicken.
- Marinate it for at least three hours before grilling, or better for at least 24 hours if time is permitted.
- Soak the wood skewers in water for half a before using them.
- Pierce the skewer through the chicken meat, alternate with a piece of chicken skin that you reserved earlier. Leave a small gap between each piece of meat.
- Grill over a small flame until the satay turns golden brown with some char marks.
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Cuisinart CI30-23BG, 9.25" Square Grill Pan, Enameled Provencial Blue
Hamilton Beach (70730) Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper with Bowl Scraper, 10 Cup, Electric
TONGYE Premium Natural BBQ Bamboo Skewers Shish Kabob, Grill, Appetizer, Fruit, Corn, Chocolate Fountain, Cocktail More Food, More Size Choices 4"/6"/8"/10"/12"(200 PCS)
McCormick Ground Turmeric, 0.95 oz
Simply Organic - Coriander - 2.29 oz.
Banyan Botanicals Fennel Seed Powder - USDA Certified Organic, Spice Jar - Foeniculum vulgare - Spice & Herbal Supplement for Digestive Comfort …
McCormick Ground Cumin, 14 oz
Belacan Shrimp Paste - Shrimp & 6A Brand (250g/8.82oz) Product of Malaysia
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 343Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 577mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 30g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 2/27/2019
Tuesday 15th of December 2020
Best satay!!!! The herb mixes super gao. It's a people-pleaser dish
Tuesday 12th of March 2019
Hi Adrian, Gula Melaka (palm sugar) has a toffee-like, caramelized taste. It should be a better choice. However, it is not crucial. I use white sugar to cook it most of the time, unless I want to ensure it is perfect, like having a distinguished guest with me, etc. Thanks, KP Kwan
Saturday 9th of March 2019
When you said use the Indonesian sweet soy sauce, am I correct to assume its the Indonesian kicap manis? Cheers
Saturday 9th of March 2019
Hi Hooi, That is what I mean. Yes :) KP Kwan
Tuesday 5th of March 2019
KP, i always get a bit confused about amount of garlic. what is a clove of garlic and which is a pip of garlic. I would be most happy to know what u adv9e. Thank Q Pat
Wednesday 6th of March 2019
Hi Patricia, Garlic is usually sold as a whole called a "head" or "bulb". Each head consist of many "cloves" or " pips." Hope it is clear. Thanks, KP Kwan
Thursday 28th of February 2019
Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.