chicken satay recipe

chicken satay

My mother recalls the old man she used to buy chicken satay from in Rangoon’s Chinatown. She tells me it was something that was eaten by the roadside. There was a large pot of spicy rich peanut sauce and each person was allowed one dip in the sauce per skewer. Although satay can be rustled up in no time – if you do not marinate the meat and use peanut butter to make the sauce – I prefer to make the sauce from scratch so that it is close to the peanut sauce my mother always talks about.


700g chicken pieces, thigh meat is best
1 lemon grass stalk, white part only
1 cm fresh ginger
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons coconut cream
pinch of salt

for the sauce

10 shallots
5 dried red chillies, soaked in hot water
2 garlic cloves
1cm fresh ginger
1cm galangla root
1 lemon grass stalk, white part only
3 tablespoons peanut oil
300g raw peanuts, roasted and remove skins
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
100ml coconut milk

Soak the skewers in cold water for 30 minutes before using to stop them scorching.

Start with the marinade. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the lemon grass, ginger and garlic until a smooth paste. Add the ground turmeric, cumin, paprika and salt. Mix in the remaining ingredients until a runny marinade. Pop the chicken pieces, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour or preferably over night.

To make the sauce, first roast the peanuts under a moderate grill. Keep a close eye as they can quickly burn. When the peanuts are golden all over, remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, grind them into a coarse paste. I prefer my sauce quite chunky.

Next pound the shallots, dried chillies, garlic, ginger, galangla and lemon grass in a pestle and mortar. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the paste for 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Add the peanut and coconut milk, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Finally add the sugar and season with salt until there is a good balance of sweet and salty. The sauce can be made well in advance and reheated when needed.

For the satay, thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers and put under a hot grill or on a barbecue, turning occasionally until cooked through. Make sure the meat gets slightly charred for that lovely flavour.

serves: 4-6
cooking time: 50-75 mins

There are many variations for satay. You can use either chicken or pork and feel free to adjust to your own taste. Let me know how yours turn out or share your own family recipe right here.

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


  1. anxiety on January 14, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I just tried your recipe today and wanted to say thank you, because it was really tasty! 🙂

  2. diabetes on April 10, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Satay is one of my favorite delicacies… I either go for lamb or beef… Chicken is good too but not every satay owner can prepare it the way i like because it’s softer than the other two… Hmmm i wonder if your satay is ok for those with diabetes.. i see you add brown or palm sugar.. wonder what it tastes like without sugar… 🙂

    • Cho on April 23, 2009 at 12:32 am

      Without sugar would taste fine. I find some satay sauce too sweet and always reduce the sugar anyway.

  3. Thu Thu on June 2, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Dear Cho,
    You make me miss 19th Street (China Town) in Myanmar. I love all your recipies and thanks to you I get to taste our own Burmese food on the opposite side of Myanmar.

    • Cho on June 3, 2009 at 3:01 am

      Hi Thu Thu

      I lived on 21st Street so we were in the same neighborhood:)

      – Cho