It boggles my mind how I’ve gone about eight months of blogging without sharing a single Indonesian recipe with you. No worries, because I’m getting that problem fixed pronto!
There are so many great cooks in my mom’s family, yet all of the recipes exist in the minds of those who prepare them from memory and are never written down. We don’t have a family cookbook, and I’ve been thinking for the longest time that I should jumpstart this daunting project. I want to keep those recipes alive so that our family will enjoy it now and in the years to come. So, I’m going to start a new series called “My Family’s Recipes” in an attempt to document all of the delicious bits of my family’s history and to share them with you.
First up, a dish I grew up eating all the time: Indonesian satays!
Indonesian peanut sauce is very different from other Southeast Asian peanut sauces. The peanuts are first deep fried before being processed into a paste along with a variety of chilis and spices (such as candlenuts, cardamom pod, nutmeg, cloves, galangal, fennel seeds), resulting in a thick, creamy dipping sauce. I generally don’t like to slather butter on things, or laden my foods with sauces and gravies, with the exception of this peanut sauce. It is so good that I can practically make a meal out of it by pouring the sauce over some jasmine white rice!
The peanut dipping sauce my mom, aunts, and grandmother all use on their Indonesian satays and salads is a storebought version, so I never feel guilty about not making it from scratch. The textures and flavors are just wonderful, and they always come in a brick shape like the one below. It might say “sate” or “gado gado” on the package and they’re almost the same thing; the one that says “gado gado” has garlic in it and the other doesn’t, but the difference is hardly noticeable. Basically, you cut up the block of peanut butter into small cubes, and add hot water gradually, stirring, until the mixture becomes desired consistency.
Growing up, I was always glad when I was assigned the task of making the peanut butter sauce, so that I could legitimately eat spoonfuls of it. For a quick taste test. To correct the seasoning and such.
I would be most guilty, however, to use a packaged marinade mix for the satays. There are dried lemongrass out there, but I always prefer using fresh lemongrass. That distinctive brightness is what makes the dish shine.
Lemongrass Chicken Satay
(serves 6, as appetizers)
4 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsps palm sugar
½ tsp turmeric
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, white part only, sliced lengthwise
2-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
Wooden skewers, soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes
In a large bowl, whisk together fish sauce, vegetable oil, lime juice, palm sugar, and turmeric, until sugar is dissolved. Add chicken pieces to the marinade and mix well to coat evenly. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour and preferably overnight.
Remove chicken pieces from marinade and thread chicken onto wooden skewers. Cook on a grill, on a grill pan, or under a broiler over medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot with peanut sauce and sliced cucumbers.
*I don’t have a backyard or balcony to grill anything outdoor, but if I do, my preference would be to cook the satays on a grill over charcoal fire. The flavors are just so much better.
*Palm sugar is also known as “gula melaka” or “gula merah” (I’m not sure why the packaging on mine says “gula kelapa” which translates into coconut candy)