Indonesia’s pride and joy, Singaporean’s favourite06 June, 2010 by Yan
Satay is one of the major representatives of Malay cuisine and a popular food of choice to be ordered while pigging out in Singapore. Just in case if you are having doubts, satay are skewers of meat grilled or barbecued over charcoal fire (or the now modern electrical grills), served with various spicy seasonings. It is a unique Southeast Asian twist to similar dishes like Japan’s Yakitori, China’s Chuanr and Shish Kebabs from Turkey.
Considered by most to be the national dish of Indonesia, satay owes its origins from Java, Indonesia. Nevertheless, it is a very popular dish throughout all Southeast Asian countries including Singapore. The various regional variations of satay cuisine from different countries could easily be written into an article by itself. To make it simple for our readers, I will be introducing the Singapore variation of the dish.
Satay stalls can be easily found at any non air conditioned hawker centers and the various open-air eating places in Singapore. Knowing that Singapore is a hot and humid place, it is recommended to eat satay at night, since the temperature will be cooler. Due to the process of grilling on open flames, it is quite impossible to find air conditioned places selling satay.
It is quite an experience seeing the vendors in action, the flare of the open flames, fragrance of the spiced grilled meat and the outstanding performance at the satay grill. Your senses will be tingled as you wait for the completed dish to be sent to your table.
The 3 common types of satay sold in Singapore includes Satay Ayam (chicken satay), Satay Lembu (beef satay) and Satay Kambing (mutton satay). Satay Perut (beef intestine) and Satay Babat (beef tripe) are uncommonly found and rarely ordered since most satay vendors stick to the best selling chicken, beef and mutton variations. Satay Babi (pork satay) can also be found, though only by non-halal vendors. If it’s a Malay vendor selling satay, chances are you wont be able to get any pork satay.
The ordering of satay is rather simple and straightforward since there’s not much Malay jargon to use and frankly, 99% of the vendors selling satay should be able to understand English. There is really no need to learn and use words like Ayam (Malay word for chicken), Lembu (Malay word for beef) or Kambing (Malay word for mutton), plain ol’ English will do the trick.
Note: Just let them know the preferred meat of choice when you order your satay, a mix of different meats is also possible. There is also usually a minimum order of at least 5 sticks of satay so do take note when ordering your amount.
The characteristic yellow hue of the meat is mainly attributed to turmeric, a compulsory ingredient used to marinate satay. And of course, every stall will use their own secret blend of other spices to flavor the meat prior to grilling. It is not uncommon to see prepared sticks of uncooked satay lying around as the meats have to be marinated overnight for the flavors to set in.
The other component that makes or breaks a good plate of satay will be the accompanying spicy peanut dip. Be sure to know that every satay vendor will have their own secret recipe for the peanut sauce. For example, the peanut dip for pork satay usually has an extra addition of pureed pineapple to enhance the taste.
Other than the actual satay sticks ordered and the accompanying spicy peanut dip, slivers of raw chopped red onions and cucumbers will be provided for cleansing the palette. Take the time to do so before munching on the next stick.
To complete a meal, Ketupats can be ordered together with the satay as an additional carbohydrate. Ketupats are basically a Malay variation of the rice dumpling, good on its own or even better with the peanut dip.
When it comes to the eating, it is pretty straightforward. Pictures below will guide you through the final moments.
If you are on a conquest to try out foods from different races, satay will be the best Malayan representative. Hope this little guide could assist you in savoring the best of what ethnic food Singapore has to offer. Slowly and surely, I will also include other representative food from the other races in Singapore to our dear readers. Be sure to follow up!
PS: Sadly, there are no vegetarian satay that can be ordered by any means through the usual satay vendors. But if any vegetarians are interested, I do know of a friend who can prepare small quantities of vegetarian satay by request.