Chicken Satay

By Judi Rose, June 20, 2008

Picture a platter-ful of fragrant, golden chicken satays served with a rich, spicy peanut sauce and crisp fresh cucumber: what a glorious — and original — centre-piece to a summer barbecue.

There are numerous regional variations of satay marinades and sauces. Having minced, blended, shredded, strained, mortared and pestled my way through many different versions, I have come up with a recipe that is both authentic and uncomplicated. And delicious.

750g (1lb 10oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
15 to 20 18-25 cm (7-10 in) bamboo skewers

For marinating the chicken:
2 teasp curry powder
2 teasp turmeric
1 teasp ground coriander
1 teasp ground cumin
1 teasp ground fennel seed (optional)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
50 ml (2 fl oz) coconut milk
3 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
3 tbsp palm sugar or light soft brown sugar

For the satay sauce:
2 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic
2 teasp Thai red curry paste
125 ml (4 fl oz) coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind paste or fresh lime juice
1 tbsp palm or light soft brown sugar
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
150ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock

Cucumber pickle:
Half a cucumber, cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks
2 teasp sugar
1 teasp rice vinegar


  • Cut the chicken into long strips about 1cm (½ in) thick. Sprinkle with 1 teasp salt, add all the marinade ingredients and mix well.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24. Thread the chicken on the skewers.
  • To barbecue, make sure the fire is good and hot. Place the satays on the grate and cook, turning them as needed, until cooked through and brown on both sides, 5-8 minutes. To grill indoors, preheat the grill to high, place the skewers on a baking sheet about 4 in from the heat source and grill, turning, until cooked through and brown on both sides, 6-8 minutes.
  • To make the sauce, heat the oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium heat until the garlic turns golden. Add the curry paste, stir well and fry for a few seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the spices and coconut milk, mixing well. Stir in the stock, sugar, tamarind paste (or juice) and a good pinch salt. When the mixture is hot, whisk in the peanut butter and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes until the consistency of double cream.
  • Check the seasoning — it should be a balance of sweet, sour, hot and salty.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Note: the sauce thickens as it cools. If too thick, whisk in 1 tbsp water or stock.
  • Toss the cucumbers with the vinegar, sugar and a generous pinch salt. Serve the satays on a platter with bowls of cucumber pickle, satay sauce and jasmine or sushi rice.
  • Cook’s tip: soak the bamboo skewers for at least an hour before threading so they do not char.
Last updated: 4:57pm, June 23 2008