Satay-quintessential street food in Malaysia-vividly reflects the Arab and Indian influences brought to bear on the area before modern times. If you make this recipe with chicken, omit the fennel and cumin from the Spice Paste.
1 lb (500 g) beef fillet or skirt steak or boneless chicken thighs, cubed
Oil for basting
1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground fennel
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons coriander seed or 1 ¾ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seed or ¾ teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon cumin or ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
6 medium-length dried chilies, seeded and soaked in warm water until soft then squeezed dry or 1-2 teaspoons ground chili
½ teaspoon shrimp paste
6 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons peanut oil
¾ cup (200 ml) fried peanuts, coarsely ground
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
4 tablespoons tamarind water, made from 1 teaspoon tamarind
1 teaspoon palm or dark brown sugar
Salt to taste
Soak several satay sticks in water to prevent them from burning. Grind the Spice Paste ingredients to a paste. Coat the beef or chicken with the paste and set aside for 2-3 hours.
Thread the spiced meat on to about one-third of the length of the satay sticks and grill them, brushing them frequently with oil.
To make the Satay Sauce, grill all the dry spices in an electric grinder. Add the remaining Spice Paste ingredients and grind to a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the Spice Paste until it is fragrant. Add the peanuts, coconut milk, tamarind water and sugar, mix well and simmer, stirring for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding water if you want a thinner sauce.
When cooked, arrange the skewers on a plate with pieces of rice cake, wedges of unpeeled cucumber and fresh yellow or Spanish onion. Serve the sauce in a separate bowl to be spooned over the meat or dipped into. Use your satay sticks to spear chunks of rice cake, cucumber and onion.