Strangely enough, my family's favorite holiday food is Indonesian Pork Satés with Spicy Peanut Sauce. We lived in the Netherlands right before we moved to New Orleans (my dad was a naval officer) and my mom learned how to make a lot of wonderful Indonesian dishes. This was always the most popular one and she still has to make it for us for every family gathering.
For the satés:
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons salad oil, peanut or canola
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably ketjap manis
- 1 pound lean pork (loin or trimmed butt), cut in 1/2-inch cubes
For spicy peanut sauce:
- 1 cup peanut butter (we use smooth but you can use crunchy if you like the texture)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sambal oelek(red chile paste)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably ketjap manis
- 1-2 cups chicken stock or water, as needed
- Radishes or cilantro springs, thinly sliced, garnish (optional)
- 12-15 wooden skewers
For the satés:
Soak 12-15 wooden skewers in water. Mix the garlic, ginger, oil, and soy sauce in a medium bowl and add pork cubes. Stir to coat with marinade; set aside. (Meanwhile, you can make the spicy peanut sauce.)
Skewer the pork (about 4-5 cubes per skewer) on the soaked wooden skewers. Grill or broil for 2-3 minutes on each side and serve with the warm peanut sauce and a garnish of shaved radishes and cilantro sprigs.
For the peanut sauce:
Place the peanut butter, garlic, chile paste, and soy sauce in a small pot and warm gently over low heat for about 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock or water slowly, adding a little at a time, as the mixture will thicken after each addition as it warms.
Note: This sauce can be made ahead of time and kept warm, or rewarmed. You will need to add more liquid when ready to serve, as the peanut butter will thicken while standing. The sauce should have a thick, creamy consistency, but be loose enough to stir easily. The seasonings can be adjusted to your personal taste; we like it a little spicy.
Sate Babi - Indonesian Pork Satay
For many Chinese Indonesians, pork satay is our comfort food, and you will most likely get them in Chinese Indonesian most beloved rice set, the Nasi Campur (rice with an assortment of pork sides).
Although most think of chicken satay with peanut sauce when they think of Indonesian satays, it is Sate Babi (pork satay) that I grew up eating.
There was a lovely lady who went door to door selling pork satay when we were young. My brothers and I were always so happy when my grandparents bought a portion for our lunch. Even though it was ages and ages ago, I still remember that a pack of pork satays has ten skewers, and there were three of us, so how do you divide ten skewers among three grumpy and hungry kids? Well, I am not telling, but it’s not pretty. ♥
Ingredients for sate babi (Indonesian pork satay): pork, garlic, shallot, red chilies, galangal, candlenuts, coriander, cumin, turmeric, palm sugar, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), and lime juice.
Satay isn't health food, and fat is what keeps things juicy and lubricated, so for my satay, I'm using the fattiest cuts of pork I can find. I'm lucky enough to live near a Japanese market that sells Berkshire pork necks, a cut that is so rich with fat, it looks pale pink with a fatty filigree, like Kobe beef. I'm mostly telling you this to say ha ha, but don't despair! The pork shoulder you'll find at any supermarket will work perfectly well in its place.
When cutting pieces of meat for satay, I use a three-step process. First, I cut the pork into thick steaks. Then I cut that steak into strips, and finally those strips into chunks. After cutting the steaks, it's important to cut your initial strips on a rather sharp bias. This allows you to produce strips of pork that, width for width, have much shorter lengths of tough muscle fiber, yielding a more tender result. This is especially important for tough cuts like shoulder or neck. With shoulder, you'll sometimes run into the issue of not being able to determine exactly which way the grain runs because there are a lot of crisscrossing muscle groups in there. The solution? Cut your strips on a bias, then cut those strips into chunks on a bias as well, which ensures that you shorten muscle fibers in two different dimensions.
The other question on the meat is what size pieces to use. At some vendors and in some restaurants, you'll find satay as longer strips of meat that are threaded onto skewers individually. In other places, you'll find smaller chunks. After trying strips and chunks of varying thicknesses and lengths, I found that you get the best results with smaller chunks, threaded together as tightly as possible. This not only minimizes the length of the muscle fibers for more tenderness, but also decreases the surface-area-to-volume ratio of the skewers, preventing them from drying out before they char properly.
The other reason to use chunks over slices is that it avoids that problem of pulling the entire piece of meat off the skewer when you're trying to get just a single bite.
Next step, the marinade and sauces.
Our take on Dutch peanut sauce
Our take on Dutch peanut sauce includes the basics of peanut butter and sambal, but we add some fresh ingredients to make it really shine: sauteed fresh garlic and ginger. We up the heat by adding red pepper flake (which we saute with the garlic and ginger) in addition to the sambal.
Other key, but pretty standard pindasaus ingredients include: kecap manis (another Dutch kitchen staple from Indonesia), soy sauce, and coconut milk.
Satay with Peanut Sauce
The original Indonesian satay (also sate or sateh) consists of seasoned or marinated cubes or strips of meat on a bamboo skewer, grilled and served with a sauce. Nowadays it is also very popular in other (Southeast) Asian countries and abroad, and is made with about anything that can be cooked on a stick: chicken, goat, beef, pork, mutton, fish, prawns, squid, minced meat, liver, tofu and even vegetables, with different seasonings and marinades (often regional varieties) and different sauces. Side dishes are white rice (nasi putih), cubes of sticky rice (lontong) or rice steamed in woven palm leaf pouches (ketupat), and cucumber, raw onion or cucumber pickle (atjar ketimoen).
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The Dutch variation on satay is quite similar to Indonesian satay: the seasonings are quite similar to basic Indonesian ones, pork or chicken is used, only the sauce and sides are different. Satay sauce in the Netherland refers to a quite thick, sweet and spicy peanut sauce, while Indonesian satay can also have kecap (Indonesian soy sauce) based and sambal based sauces. Satay with peanut sauce, french fries, baguette and a salad is a popular dish in simple restaurants (eetcafé’s, literally eating pubs) and other places where they serve simple food satay with peanut sauce, krupuk and rice is a popular take-away dish at Chinese restaurants (Chinese restaurants usually also serve a selection of Indonesian dishes). And in the freezer section of the supermarket all kinds of ready made (pork, chicken, sweet, spicy) satay in peanut sauce are available (usually promoted as snack food).
The recipe below gives a delicious and fragrant marinade for pork satay, although it would also work for other kinds of meat. Traditionally, sateh is grilled on the BBQ or even over an open fire, but that is not always possible. An alternative is to grill them in the oven, but I prefer to bake the satay in a frying pan, as it gives the best result for me. And usually I don’t bother to fuss with the skewers, if you’re not grilling the satay anyway they will taste delicious with or without sticks. Not having to skewer the meat spares a lot of time. The satay sauce below is very Dutch. I usually accompany this dish either with a simple nasi goreng (without any meat in it), or with white rice, krupuk and atjar.
Saté Babi with peanut sauceOne of the expected dishes at a rijsttafel, or Indonesian rice table, is without doubt the skewered and grilled meats, called saté. Served with a warm peanut sauce, satés are not only an intricate part of the rijsttafel's offerings, but have worked their way into the Dutch culinary cuisine as a lunch item, served with white bread, or as a late night snack.
The sauce itself can also be found on patat oorlog: a serving of French fries doused in mayonnaise, chopped fresh onions and a generous helping of hot saté sauce, or as a dipping sauce for other meats, breads or vegetables. As an indispensable part of the blanched vegetable salad, gado gado, saté sauce can also spruce up a roast beef sandwich if you don't feel like cooking much. Make plenty of sauce in advance, as it freezes well and can be kept in the fridge for several days.
If you don't care for pork, you can use chicken or tender beef cut instead.
S até Babi
2 lbs pork shoulder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce)
Cut the pork shoulder into 1 inch cubes. Mix the brown sugar with the ketjap, coriander, oil, minced garlic cloves and lemon juice into a marinade. Toss the meat with the marinade in a bowl, making sure each cube is covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate, for at least four hours but preferably overnight.
Soak wooden skewers about an hour beforehand, or use metal skewers. Thread five pieces of meat onto a skewer and roast over a medium fire until done. Pay attention and turn the satés frequently, as the sweet marinade has a tendency to scorch.
Warm the peanut butter with the water in a small saucepan. Stir in the garlic, the sambal and the brown sugar and bring up to heat, stirring well so that the sauce doesn’t burn. Add the trassi and the ketjap and stir until blended. Taste. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a tablespoon of (coconut) milk at a time.
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup chopped green onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root
- 1 cup roasted, salted Spanish peanuts
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons crushed coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
In a food processor, process garlic, green onions, ginger, peanuts, lemon juice, honey, soy sauce, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Puree until almost smooth. Pour in broth and butter, and mix again.
Place pork cubes in a large resealable plastic bag, and pour mixture over meat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or overnight.
Preheat grill for medium heat. Remove pork cubes from bag, and thread onto skewers. In a small saucepan, boil the marinade for 5 minutes. Reserve a small amount of the marinade for basting, and set the remainder aside to serve as a dipping sauce.
Lightly oil preheated grill. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes, or until well browned, turning and brushing frequently with cooked marinade. Serve with dipping sauce.
Serve this pork satay with our spicy peanut sauce:
Serve this Thai pork satay with a fragrant Jasmine rice and a spicy peanut sauce to dip the succulent bites of pork into. This recipe makes a thick sweet-spicy sauce. It is delicious on our soba noodles, shrimp and peanut sauce.
Homemade Spicy Peanut Sauce
A cucumber salad and some kimchee make really great sides as well. Enjoy!
In a blender or food processor, grind peanuts to a coarse meal. Add all remaining ingredients except the pork and puree. Place in a saucepan and heat just to a boil. Let cool.
Pour cooled sauce over pork, mix to coat all cubes, cover, and let marinate at least 3 hours at room temperature or overnight or longer in refrigerator. If grilling on bamboo skewers, soak skewers (1 or 2 per person) in water to cover for the same length of time.
Prepare barbecue, if used, and light fire about 30 minutes before you intend to start cooking. Drain meat (reserving marinade), thread meat on skewers, and place skewers on barbecue, close to white-hot coals.
Barbecue rapidly, basting frequently with marinade and turning skewers every few minutes, until meat is well-browned all over and just cooked through (Avoid overcooking).
Meat may also be broiled in oven or electric broiler about 2 inches from heat source. Serve on skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce.
For Peanut Dipping Sauce: Reserve ground peanuts. In a heavy enameled or stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, bring broth and sugar to a boil, stirring.
When sugar has dissolved completely, add lemon juice, hot pepper, garlic, and salt. Return mixture to a boil.
Transfer to a bowl and serve hot (Sauce may be refrigerated and reheated just before serving).
Chicken Satay with Indonesian Peanut Sauce
Bali. Wow. What a wonderful, absolutely magical place. My trip to Bali was incredibly amazing the amount of culture, tradition, passion, and of course, food, that lies within that island is extraordinary. Add to that, I explored this place with my family, and it becomes 10 times better.
I know you’re all dying to hear about the food – and it’s coming, promise – but first I want to share with you the culture of Bali. I’m so unaccustomed to the culture that I yearned to learn all I could about it! Bali people primarily practice Hindu, so being there for one of their biggest holidays was fascinating. On July 6th, most of the island celebrated ‘Hari Raya Gayugan’, a holiday celebrating the victory of Virtue (Dharma) over Evil (Adharma). Signs of the holiday were everywhere we looked – mini temples, offerings, children playing their instruments behind the ‘barong’ (a creature representing the struggle between good and evil), ‘banten’ in front of every house (beautifully woven young coconut leaves adorned with flowers, cakes, and intricate designs), and of course, the people praying to their gods in every temple we passed. It was so interesting to see how their religion influences their everyday lives, when I’m typically used to seeing religion only coming out in full force for the holidays. In Bali, people focus everything they do around their religion, celebrating their lives and thanking the gods for what they have at every chance they get. It’s an inspiring feat.
Above is the ‘Barong’, a village guardian for the citizens of Bali. Below is the children who follow behind the barong banging on instruments as they parade through the streets.
One of the things I found most interesting about the Balinese people is their naming traditions – if I met someone named Wayan, I’d know they were the first-born in their family. Made is second born, Nyoman is third, and Ketut comes fourth. While it seems like some sort of population limitation, implying families should have no more than four kids, that doesn’t seem to work so well. So, the Balinese make use of their skills of basic arithmetic and start again at Wayan and repeat the names as many times as necessary. A little different from the many Rebeccas, Katies, Bens, and Daniels we have in the US.
As our driver (Wayan, of course) told us, the kids here in Bali aren’t all that different from the kids in U.S. He moaned about how kids “only like computer and hand phone! No book or reading anymore!” Sound familiar? Sure, they start driving a little sooner than us Americans (most Balinese children start learning how to drive a motorbike around the age of ten! Could you imagine the uproar if that happened in the U.S. ) but they seem to be pretty similar in most other senses. Back to the motorbikes though – those things are terrifying. Driving in Bali isn’t exactly…civilized, to say the least. The roads are unpaved, they’re not too fond of stop signs or stop lights, and a 2 lane road ends up with four lanes, but craziest of all is those motorbikes. They are everywhere, hundreds on every street, weaving in and out of the cars, sometimes carrying up to four people. On one bike. Sounds like a safety concern to me. As our driver Wayan said, “Motorbike everywhere! Like mosquitos!” and when one happened to cut in front of us…”stupid! So stupid!!” However, it felt okay to deal with the traffic and the driving so that we could get to some of the most incredible beaches and towns any of us had ever laid eyes on.
1 motorbike + 4 people = safety concern! Where are those kids helmets?!
My personal favorite of those beaches was Jimbaron beach. Even though the town is known for its fish markets…our experience at the fish markets wasn’t so great. Without going into details, they messed up our orders and mommy dearest got a little ill. However, once we ventured to the Four Seasons at Jimbaron (on the list of 1000 places you must see before you die), it was impossible not to fall in love with the place. Seriously, look at these pictures and tell me you wouldn’t be happy there!
Incredible, no? I was in awe the entire time. But now it’s time to start talking about my favorite part of the entire trip: the food, of course! I went to Bali expecting to have mostly Indonesian food, and while we did have a lot of delicious Indonesian food, I think we had even more food from other parts of the world. One restaurant, La Lucciola, blew my mind. The food was absolutely incredible…Italian in Bali? Who would’ve thought. It totally works though I had some of the best Bolognese I’ve ever had EVER. While I didn’t get a picture of the main courses, I did snap photos of our appetizers.
OK – on the left is my mom’s calamari which she absolutely loved. They were tender, not over-fried, and just delicious. In the middle were my Aunt Veronica’s ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers. Yum! Those were tasty. Last but not least was my caprese salad with aged balsamic and garlic crumbs. Ohh, so good! Definitely the best caprese salad I’ve ever had…and I’ve had a lot. It was incredible. So La Lucciola was my favorite restaurant in Bali, but my favorite food experience was the cooking class we took.
The class was held at a Balinese house, taught by Balinese people, but it wasn’t just the cooking that we learned about, it was the culture. First, they took us to the market (the non-touristy one) where they showed us tons of ingredients, some familiar, some completely new. It was so lively and colorful and they welcomed us as if we lived there ourselves. The flashy green of the leaves, the soft browns of the piles of ginger, the robust red of fresh turmeric, and the sassy pinks and purples of the flowers used for the daily offerings were intoxicating it was a place that truly showcased the effort, love and care that the Balinese put into their lives.
After the tour of the market, we headed to the family compound. The Balinese live with their entire families – every generation. When a girl marries, she goes to live with the husband’s family. Hope they get along with their in-laws!! When we got there, they served us Bali coffee and delicious fried bananas. After that, we saw the mother of the house making – yes making – coconut oil. They use coconut oil for everything, and every morning one of the young boys climbs up the coconut tree, grabs a few, and gives them to the cook of the house to make the coconut oil. Crazy, isn’t it? I mean in San Diego a jar of good quality coconut oil is at least 10 dollars!
Next we got working on the prep work. We chopped all the above: garlic, ginger, aromatic ginger, chilis, turmeric, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, tempeh, mostly familiar things, with a few foreigners thrown in. We learned how to make so many things, including sweet potato rice, ‘Cram Cam Gedang Mekuah’ (also known as Red Bean and Green Papaya Soup), ‘Tempe Manis’ (a fried soybean cake), a salad of blanched greens, and my favorite, and the recipe I’ll be sharing with you today, ‘Sate Tusuk Babi’, also known as skewered, marinated chicken (or pork or beef) with a spicy, delicious peanut sauce. Mm…it was seriously so good! So listen up, and bring some Balinese culture into your home with this incredible dish!
Hint: get your chicken marinating before you make the peanut sauce!
First, fry up the peanuts, ginger, garlic and chili slices. Fry until the peanuts are golden brown and the garlic is toasted, but not burned. Drain the peanut mixture. Place in either a food processor or mortar and pestle.
If you’re using the pestle and mortar, get to work! You want it to be a thick paste, at the point that it’s almost peanut butter. My mom and I look happy in that picture…but we were sweating!
Put the peanut sauce in a wok or saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk, sweet soy sauce, palm sugar syrup, and lime leaves. Let it simmer and slowly adding the rest of the coconut milk. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. It should darken in color a bit. When it’s done, place in a serving bowl and cover to keep it warm.
So if you listened to my hint, your chicken should be done marinating around the time you finish your peanut sauce.
Grab your skewers and put about 3-5 pieces of chicken on each one, depending on how big you cut your pieces. Keep skewering until their all done.
Now, grab those suckers and throw ’em on the hot, greased grill. Grill them until cooked through and slightly charred on the outside. Serve with peanut sauce, and enjoy your Indonesian meal!