Chicken Satay

Asian BBQ

There are some dishes that are just worth the extra time and energy…Chicken Satay is one of them.  Don’t be seduced by the idea of shortcuts by using peanut butter instead of freshly ground peanuts,  or pre-made satay sauce that comes in a jar…there is satay and then there is satay.  Likewise, don’t be deterred by the long list of exotic ingredients or time devoted to creating this dish, because it is all worthwhile.  Moreover let’s be honest, meat on a stick when done right, is an amazing thing – let’s not screw it up by cutting corners.  So what is satay?  Simply put, satay is skewered, barbecued meat originating from Southeast Asia and often served by street cart vendors.  You may be wondering how street food can be served to the masses when I just went on about the labor involved.  Yes, the prep work can be time consuming – except the ajad, which is very quick and easy to make – everything can be prepared ahead of time and like most things, once you know what you’re doing, things move pretty quickly.  So, whether you make it all at once on the day you want to serve it, or prepare it the night before for an event, this satay will be sure to impress.


If you’re anything like our household, you’ll scarf this one down and there won’t be anything left.  However, if you do have leftovers, try making a Chicken Satay Pizza – it’s one of our favorite dishes ever!  


Slice the Lemongrass and Add Boiling Water:




Separate the Coconut Milk from the Coconut Cream:



To Make the Basting Liquid – Add the Sugar, Salt, and Turmeric to the Coconut Milk: 



Pound Out the Chicken and Slice it In Half:




Add the Chicken to the Coconut Cream Mix – Refrigerate for 1 Hour: 



Make the Satay Sauce:




Skewer the Chicken:



Grill the Satay, Basting and Turning Frequently:





To Make the Ajad, Thinly Slice the Vegetables and Add to the Vinegar, Sugar, and Salt Mix:




Serve the Satay with the Peanut Sauce and Ajad: 



Adapted from:

20 skewers, soaked in water

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pounded 1/4 inch thick

1 stalk lemongrass

1 – 14 ounce can coconut milk – unshaken, cream only

5 tablespoons light soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon palm sugar or light brown sugar

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon baking soda



  1. Soak the skewers in a dish large enough to accommodate the length of the skewers.
  2. To make the lemongrass water, thinly slice 1 stalk of lemongrass and place in a small bowl.  Add 1/2 cup of boiling water to the lemongrass and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Strain out the sliced lemongrass and set the lemongrass water aside.
  3. Pound the chicken thighs to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Then slice each thigh, in-half, lengthwise.   Set aside.
  4. Open the can of coconut milk – DO NOT shake or stir.  Insert a knife into the coconut milk, along the side of the can and gently form a hole to expose the liquid just below the cream.  Pour the liquid into a bowl, moving the cream aside.  Do this several times during the process to ensure that you are separating all of the contents.  Place the cream into a large bowl and set the bowl of coconut liquid aside for the basting liquid.   (See the images above for clarification).
  5. Add 4 tablespoons of the lemongrass water to the  bowl of coconut cream.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Add the chicken thighs and incorporate them into the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.




Remaining coconut liquid from the satay marinade

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric powder



  1. Combine all of the ingredients, mix well, and set aside.




4 Thai chiles

1 1/2 tablespoons galangal paste*

1 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced lemongrass – cut from the bulb

5 Thai basil leaves*, fresh

2 tablespoons shallot, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon shrimp paste*

1 cup coconut milk, shaken

1 tablespoon red curry paste

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind paste*

1/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted

1/4 cup dry roasted peanut



* Galangal – there is really no good substitute for galangal, so a substitution should be your last resort.  There are some that say that there is NO substitute for galangal, but lets be realistic – if you’re in an area that does not carry this exotic root, than throwing out the likes of that ingredient from the recipe entirely is crazy…in my opinion.   That said, first try the International Aisle of your local grocery store or Asian food store.  IF galangal is nowhere to be found, use the equivalent measurement of minced ginger with a pinch of mace and pepper.

* Thai basil leaves – try a farmers market, one of those high-end grocery stores, or Asian food store.  If you cannot find Thai basil, you may substitute sweet basil – just add a few more leaves to the recipe as Thai basil is stronger and spicier than traditional basil.

*Shrimp paste – I have only seen this ingredient in International/Asian markets…are you seeing a theme here?  However, if you cannot find shrimp paste, simply add the equal measurement in fish sauce.  Most local grocery stores with an international aisle will carry fish sauce.  However, in a pinch you may substitute soy sauce – although, the dish may taste a bit weak.

* Tamarind paste – Like the shrimp paste, I have only seen this in International/Asian markets (if you can’t find it in a jar, check the frozen food section).  I have seen the pods in my local grocery store, although with its very hard and sticky seeds trying to make them into a paste using a mortar and pestle turned out to be quite the kitchen disaster.  As a substitute, I have used 1/4 orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons lime juice, which yielded good results.  Simply use a 1:1 measurement as called for in the recipe.



  1. In a food processor, puree the Thai chiles, galangal, lemongrass, Thai basil, shallot, garlic, and shrimp paste.  If you would like a smoother sauce, finish by using a mortar and pestle, although this is not necessary.  Set the ingredients aside in a bowl separate from the food processor.
  2. Wipe out the bowl of the food processor and add the toasted sesame seeds and dry roasted peanuts.  Puree until creamy.
  3. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the puree of Thai chiles, galangal, lemongrass, Thai basil shallot, garlic, and shrimp paste with the coconut milk.  Stir constantly until fully incorporated.  Then add the sesame seed and peanut mixture.  Finally, add the red curry paste, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, and stir well.  Pour off any excess oil if desired and set aside.




1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cucumber, halved, seeds scooped out, thinly sliced

1/4 cup shallot, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai chile peppers, thinly sliced



  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the vinegar, salt, and sugar.  Stir until dissolved and then remove from heat to cool.
  2. Thinly slice the cucumber, shallot, and Thai chile peppers.  Add to the liquid mixture just before serving.




  1. Heat your grill to 500 degrees F.
  2. Thread the chicken onto the skewers, working the skewer in and out of the meat, down the center.
  3. Once the grill is ready, oil the grates with canola oil.
  4. Place the chicken skewers on the grill and baste with the basting liquid.  Turn and baste the other side.  Continue to turn and baste constantly until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Serve the satay with the peanut sauce and ajad.