Satay: the Epic Project

     Chicken Satay with peanut sauce and usual sides of cucumber, red onions and the nasi impit that didn’t turn out 🙂     

J and I ushered in the year of the Tiger with a gathering of families at  J’s cousin’s house. Now, when they emailed us about their open house, they mentioned that their usual Satay man was on leave so I gladly volunteered to be their Satay woman as I would love to feature this popular street side/hawker dish on my blog. This, I must say, is my ultimate labour of love. As much as I love cooking, this project tested my patience and stamina; by the end of Friday night, after skewering 350 satays, J and I were both zonked and might I say irritable with each other as we had more preparations to do for the reunion dinner on CNY eve (home made Yee Sang and Siew Yuk).     

I have previously made satays before but not on this scale so after this experience, I must kowtow and salute all the satay vendors out there. This project began 3 days before the gathering, so I will break it down in days.      

Day 1 – Sourcing and Marinating    

We headed to Preston Market because it was nearest to us and I know a fully stocked asian grocery store there. Dang, I can’t remember the name but it was one of those stores with the narrow walkway and squeezing passed people to get through was a harrowing experience! I found everything  I needed there and at Preston Market. Bought my fresh turmeric, galangal, 2kg red spanish onions to replace shallots (as they’re exorbitantly expensive), frozen shredded lemon grass (I usually buy fresh ones and grate them myself but for 7kgs of chicken thighs, no way was I going to grate 20 lemon grass stalks), coriander seeds, candle nuts, 2 kgs of peanuts, tamarind puree, coconut milk, belachan granules etc. The chicken thighs were priced at $9.00 per kg so it came up to $63.00.  My dried ingredients came up to about $45 including the 600 bamboo skewers. The 7kgs of chicken were originally estimated to produce 500 satays but fatigue and irritation resulted in some Satays being too big (they should be petite) hence we only made 350 skewers. Cost wise, purely from raw materials, it ranged between 24 cents to 30 cents per skewer. I haven’t even factored in time, utility and labour cost. Hehe. Ok, let’s discount that for now as this is for non-commercial consumption. But good to know what the costs are for future references. 🙂 Economies of scale will definitely come to play and reduce the unit cost should I get larger satay project opportunities.
Anyway,  after 2 hours of market frenzy, I was home and my tiny food processor became my best friend as I ditched my pestle and mortar for this ginormous task. Slice slice slice, Chop chop chop, blend blend blend, mix mix mix. My satay marinade had, large quantities of garlic, onions, lemongrass, grounded coriander seeds, fresh and powdered turmeric, galangal juice, grounded cumin seeds, curry powder, belachan (shrimp) powder, sugar and salt.   

Day 2 – Peanut Sauce and Skewering    

3:00 pm – Started making my peanut sauce to accompany the satays and I should have bought readily roasted peanuts but I am a sucker for old school kitchen preparations so I only have myself to blame for the pain of frying 1.7 kgs of raw peanuts (skin on) in the wok. ‘Chang chang chang’ goes the sound of roasting the peanuts in the iron wok. Once they’re done, I wrapped them in a tea towel and rubbed the skins off and then I placed them in a colander to shake off the skins, ready to be grounded in the blender.  This peanut roasting, skinning and blending was the part I hated most!
Next up, I blended some soaked dried chillies with the onions, candle nuts, garlic and lemongrass as the sauce base which is then fried in copious amounts of oil to release the aroma. In goes the grounded peanuts, spices, tamarind puree, seasoning, splash of coconut milk,  and simmering time of 2 hours.    

6:00 pm – Experimented with Nasi Impit (Rice cakes), boiled some rice with pandan leaves and immediately compressed them in squared pyrex dishes. Not satisfactory as type of rice used was wrong and should have added more water.   

7:00 pm – J got back from work and the skewering process began.    

11:00 pm – Two zombies finally finished skewering all the chicken pieces. 

Day 3 – Rest Day – other CNY preparations    


Day 4 – Day of Event – the Taste Test     

Fortunately, I had my cousin-in-laws to help me with the cooking and grilling. All we had to do was chop the cucumbers and onions (which were soaked in vinegar and salt and then rinsed), they fired up the barbecue and we were ready to rock! The satays were continuously basted with coconut milk on the grill and cooked until slightly charred for that smoky flavour.    

My work is done. I was told the satays were yummy although personally I think I could reduce the salt and make it a tad bit sweeter.  It could be a little bit more smoky as well.    

Ah..after all that, would I do it again? YES!    

I will have to refine my recipe as I adapted the ingredients and quantities from various sources and I relied mostly on my taste buds so a lot of adjustments were made which was then translated via pencil-to-paper scribblings. Might have to scale it down for 30 -50 satays or something. Otherwise you will see 20 tablespoons of sugar, 28 cloves of garlic, 2kg bags of peanuts and spices were measured in cups as opposed to tablespoons. Since I have half a pot of peanut sauce left, this calls for Satay Project No. 2 – Regular Portions.  

Ingredients for the Marinade

7kgs of chicken thighs ready for slicing


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