Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Satay chicken is one of those great dishes that I don’t make enough.  I don’t know why…I should. It’s easy, full of flavor and most people love it.

Satay is, of course, a dish originating in southeast Asia- specifically Indonesia and the Malaysian peninsula.  It is very similar to Turkish kebabs, except the flavors are heavier on the tropical spices indigenous to the area (tumeric, chiles, ginger, and so on).  It’s also true ‘hawker food’ or street food, which, in those parts of the world, is the best kind of food.    Singapore is famous for its hawker food, and chicken satay is probably one of the most popular dishes.

Remember, even though this is a simple marinade and not a highly complex flavor profile, balance is still key.  My advice: make the marinade, taste it, and make sure you like the balance before you add the chicken.  It should be slightly sweet, slightly acidic, slightly spicy and full of bright flavors.  Adjust as you see fit, but make sure the balance is there (ie it tastes good!) before adding the chicken.  That is cooking 101.  Same with the sauce- make sure it tastes good!

It’s a delicious dish, easy to prepare and hard to get wrong.  Traditionally, it is served with a peanut sauce.   Please see my recipe for both.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Prep time: 20 min
Inactive cook time:  2-3 hours
Cook time: 20 min
Makes 4 portions

For the marinade:

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips and lightly pounded
bamboo skewers, soaked in water
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp hot curry powder
1 tsp ground tumeric
juice of 1 lime
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chop
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 thai chiles, crushed

For the sauce:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp chili/garlic sauce, like sambal
1/8 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chopped


8 large leaves butter lettuce
toasted peanuts
cilantro leaves
sesame seeds
kosher salt


Marinade the chicken in all marinade ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

For the sauce, mix everything well.  Add more coconut milk if it’s too thick (some coconut milks are thinner than others).  Place sauce in a small bowl and reserve.

Prepare a wood grill – HIGH HEAT! Remove chicken from marinade and skewer.  Very lightly salt.  Quickly grill over hottest part of the grill.  Chicken will cook very quickly and you don’t want to overcook.

On a platter, place the peanut sauce in the middle, lay down the butter lettuce around the bowl, and place the skewers on the lettuce.  Garnish with cilantro leaves, toasted peanuts and sesame seeds.  Serve right away.


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