Chicken with a Satay Style Sauce
At one Ghabka recently some grilled chicken was served with ‘satay’ sauce. To be honest, it would have been fairer to have called it peanut butter sauce. Now, I do like peanut butter a great deal and it does have its place in the culinary repertoire, though its sweetness needs tempering and should be more than one-dimensional, especially in a savoury dish.
Firstly I cut up about 1¼ kg of chicken breasts in thin strips (the other half of the 2.5kg pack my much better half had commandeered for something she was experimenting with) to prepare a marinade to keep overnight in the fridge. The marinade consisted of whole coriander seeds (2 tsp), 3 cloves of garlic, 2 cm ginger, 1 tbsp kecap manis (Sweet Soy Sauce), 1 tsp normal soy sauce and the juice of 2 lemons. All this was whizzed to a liquid paste in a grinder and spread over the chicken pieces, covered and placed overnight in the fridge.
Now, a normal chicken satay would be barbecued, what with the current rise in temperature and humidity, that did not seem the best option and so test-driving my new Turkish ‘concrete’ grill pan seemed like the answer for the evening. Sultan seem to have quite a number of such cookware on offer currently, and the grill pan was duly pressed into service and did a pretty good job. Given the fact the occasion was sitting at a dining table as opposed to a barbecue occasion (once with gratin Dauphinois potatoes as photographed and once with jasmine rice) I made a thinner sauce than I would have done BBQ style. i.e. had I grilled the chicken on a stick, I would have made a thicker dipping sauce.
So… after grilling the chicken a few pieces at a time and letting them rest lets get to the sauce. Had I had shrimp paste without MSG or Aji No Moto, I would have bought some. Many studies have shown that Monosodium Glutamate is fine and not harmful, so I am not making a scare, however with an aged mother the author did not wish to risk any possibility of an adverse reaction with an aged mother, especially not knowing how much dosage was in the product. Knowing that members of the family do have some allergic reactions, I decided against using a ready-mixed product. To be fair, at 95 my mother is unlikely to suddenly develop obesity and in due course will read through the literature on the subject.
Instead, I had my chilli pesto mix in frozen batches that was high on chilli as well as onions, herbs and spices and covered already in an earlier edition, along with the remains of the marinade and a couple of generous tablespoons of peanut butter, some soy (of both kinds) and patis (some drops of fish sauce found in the Oriental sections of most supermarkets) did the trick. Taste for seasoning in case adjustments need be made and the pan-grilled chicken was added to warm through (high heat at first, when bubbling down to low).
The result is not authentic Indonesian/Malay street food. It is very much an adaptation that covers many of the bases and in particular, the lemon tenderises the chicken as well as, along with the chilli dose, lets the peanut come through, without the overbearing sweetness that is appealing on a piece of toast at breakfast, but detracts from the savoury taste one is looking for in a chicken dinner. The sauce can be further augmented by roasted crushed unsalted peanuts. Rice or potato is a foil to the sauce and absorbs, so either work well for an interesting taste. The amount of chilli, of course, is personal and will vary from person to person. My advice is to start with some and add until you know your comfort zone. If there is too much, coconut is a great healer and will subdue any excess.