KitchenTigress: Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce

chicken satay with peanut sauce
I'm following the satay sauce recipe in "The Best of Singapore Cooking". My satay sauce is too chunky because the peanuts are all roughly chopped as per the recipe. And the colour doesn't look right. Maybe the recipe needs some turmeric?
satay sauce
For the second attempt, I pulverize half of the peanuts to give the sauce a smoother and thicker consistency. Surprisingly, that also gives me the right shade of golden yellow colour for the sauce.

Now I know! There's no need to add turmeric. The golden hue comes from roasted peanuts, which have to be finely ground and then boiled to release their colour.
satay dipped in peanut sauce
Besides changing the colour of the sauce, the finely ground peanuts also enhance the . . . "satay flavour". You know what I mean, that special flavour and fragrance unique to satay, that makes satay taste like satay?

How do I grill the chicken?

In the oven.

What, no charcoal?!
grilled chicken satay
Nope, I don't have a charcoal barbecue with naked flames dancing. I will when I have a big house that has a big garden. Meanwhile, the oven would have to do.

Compared to some satay that looks two-dimensional because the meat is so thinly sliced, mine is definitely plus-size. There isn't any drama in my kitchen from leaping flames, dancing sparks or furious fanning. But there's plenty of juicy, succulent meat.

With or without drama, dunking grilled chicken in peanut sauce is one of life's biggest pleasures.

This satay recipe, from "The Best of Singapore Cooking", uses a lot of sugar and spices. Both the meat and peanut sauce are sweet and wonderfully aromatic.

chicken satay and peanut sauce
(For 40 sticks and 2 cups of sauce)

Chicken marinade
  • 4 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 120 g shallots (20 pieces)
  • 25 g garlic (4 cloves)
  • 8 stalks lemon grass, tender part only – wash, chop roughly
  • 4 slices galangal – wash, chop roughly
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder, or ¼ thumb size piece fresh turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 150 g sugar (¾ cup)
  • 2 tsp dark soya sauce

  • 1 kg boneless and skinless chicken thighs – wash, dry, cut small bite size
  • 8 tbsp oil
  • 40 skewers – soak in water overnight
Satay peanut sauce (makes about 2 cups, about 2 tsp per skewer)
  • 60 g assam (tamarind) paste – mash with ½ cup warm water, drain, discard seeds
  • 250 g toasted peanuts, peeled – chop roughly
  • 250 g toasted peanuts, peeled – finely ground
  • 50 g shallots (8 pieces) – chop roughly
  • 25 g garlic (4 cloves) – chop roughly
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, tender part only – chop roughly
  • 4 thin slices galangal – chop roughly
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder, or to taste – mix with equal amount of water
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 60 g palm sugar – chop roughly
  • 60 g sugar
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ¼ cup red onion – cut into bite-size wedges, separate layers
  • ½ cup pineapple – cut into bite-size wedges
  • ½ cup cucumber – cut into bite-size wedges

  1. To marinate chicken, toast coriander and cumin seeds over medium/low heat till toasty. Whilst still hot, pound or blend with shallots, garlic, lemon grass, galangal and fresh turmeric (if using) to a smooth paste. Mix with remaining ingredients for marinade. Refrigerate for 10-24 hours, covered.

  2. To grill chicken (after making peanut sauce – see below), thoroughly mix chicken and marinade with oil. Thread chicken on skewers, snugly. Spread marinade on the meat.

  3. Grill chicken till slightly charred and just cooked, about 5 minutes each side. Garnish with pineapple, cucumber and onion. Serve immediately with sauce on the side.

  4. To make satay sauce, place peanuts and assam water in a pot. Top up with water to cover peanuts by 3 cm (1 inch or so). Bring to a boil. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, covered.
  5. satay peanut sauce
  6. Whilst peanuts are simmering, pound or blend shallots, garlic, lemongrass and galangal to a smooth paste. Fry paste with chilli powder in hot oil over medium heat till fragrant and colour darkens.

  7. Add to peanut mixture together with palm sugar, sugar and salt. Stir to mix thoroughly. Bring back to a boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Reduce sauce or add more water as necessary to get a thick consistency.
  8. chicken satay with peanut sauce
  9. Taste and if necessary adjust seasoning. Turn off heat. The sauce continues to thicken as it cools down. If necessary, add a wee bit of water and stir through. The sauce is typically served at room temperature or slightly warm, but piping hot or chilled is OK too.