Satay: The Scrumptious Signature Dish of Malaysia

Posted on 10 February 2015

Satay is a string of skewered, bite-sized, marinated meat cooked on wooden charcoal grill.

It is like the hamburger  in the U.S. – available from street stalls to the finest restaurants anywhere in Malaysia – well – and beyond.

Any first-time visitor to this country would easily assume it is the ‘national dish’.

Having a multi-racial population, the recipes of Malaysia’s signature dishes swiftly spread across Asia. Satay is one of the well-loved Malay dishes that inspired countless cooks to experiment with new flavours.

Thailand’s chefs love to put coconut milk on their satay sauce while Indonesians prefer a dipping sauce without this ingredient. Singapore and Vietnam cooks have also put their own spin on their satay sauce. Indeed, do not be surprised if you find varied ‘satay’ sauce versions as you travel across the Southeast Asian region.

In Malaysia, you will find two popular varieties of satay. The first one is Kajang or Eastern satay and second is Johor or Southern satay. Both are sought-after locations among foodies hoping to taste one-of-a-kind satay variants.

If you trust what satay aficionados say,  you should go for Johor’s style. They say it is second to none.

Vegetable Satay Newcastle

Satay Sauce

Malaysian satay can be succinctly described in two words: ‘versatile’ and ‘evolving’. Malay chefs continue to explore ways to please the taste of their diverse diners.

While it seems unthinkable for people to debate over a sauce, satay savants are divided among themselves when it comes to this subject. The choice of the best “kuah”, a peanut-based sauce of satay, causes a stir among satay connoisseurs.

Some gourmets insist that coconut cream is a must while the rest disagree, saying it would taste better without it. Some satay specialists think turmeric is not an optional ingredient. But some chefs ignore this (man-made) rule.

Meanwhile, you need not be caught up in this argument, especially if it is your first time to try a serving of satay. You have a lot of versions or styles to try before you can decide which one tastes best. So, when you eat your first satay, make sure you pay attention to the dipping sauce on the side.

Satay Chicken

A sizeable Malaysian population practiced Islam so chicken is the preferred meat for satays. But in Australia, the choice of meat varies according the chefs’ ingenuity and the customers’ wishes. Even vegetarians can enjoy meatless satay through tofu or broccoli and cauliflower. (The possibility seems endless.)

But satay is originally made by stringing salty, sweet, and spicy meat morsels on a skewer and grilling until cooked.

Chicken, beef, pork or fish will be marinated for three to four hours (but overnight is best) before grilling. Shallots, salt, sugar (or honey), cumin, chilli, coriander, fennel, and turmeric are the usual marinade ingredients.

Traditionally, the marinated meat slices are brushed with lemon grass stalks dipped in oil while on the griller.

Satay Stop in Newcastle, Australia

Where there is Malaysian food, there is satay. Either take this as a test or a guarantee. For instance, if you stop by one of the most popular Asian bistros in Newcastle, Australia, you are likely to find this dish.

When you visit Steven’s Asian Kitchen, you can enjoy their crowd-pleasing satay with the much talked about dipping sauce. Satays are well-loved starters but  you can also eat them with rice or a mixed vegetable dish – or both.

Once satisfied, please don’t forget to tell us what you think of Steven’s ‘satay dish’ at the comment section. We’d love to hear from you.

NEXT TO READ: Unraveling the Secrets to Finger-Licking Pork Ribs