Sunday, March 18, 2012

Singapore Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber and Yellow Pepper Relish Salad

Last week work took me to Singapore for the first time: so close to Bangkok, where I live, but culturally so far. Bangkok’s hustle and bustle is replaced by something far more modern and orderly, and I was blown by some of the most outlandish architecture I have ever seen, including a hotel and casino in the shape of a ship perched ostentatiously on top of three sky scrapers:

Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino

Singapore boasts an impressive selection of restaurants with just about every cuisine you can think of. But I wanted to eat local so went in search of Singaporean street food. It’s hard to say what truly Singaporean cuisine is because the culture is a combination of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and other influences. And so food courts are a mish-mash of curries and rotis, ramen noodles, stir-fries, and Chinese roast meat. My colleagues took me to Satay Street – a whole street dedicated to meaty, peanutty skewers -  where I found this fantastic sign. I’m a sucker for a good pun:


Satay is found all over South East Asia and the recipe varies from country to country. This version reflects the melting pot culture and cuisine of Singapore. It has notes of Chinese (in the soy), Indian (in the garam masala and cumin) and South East Asian (in the lemongrass) flavours.

Char-grilling beef, prawn and chicken satay sticks on Satay Street

The choices of satay on Satay Street were prawn, chicken or beef. But personally I think the peanut-pork combination is a winning one so opted for pork. It was served with chunks of cucumber an onion. I have turned this into a chunky salad with a relish dressing to cut through the richness of the pork and peanut sauce.

This makes a fun starter or a meaty main.

Timing: 1 hour plus plenty of marinating time
Rating: Moderate – a little effort to make the sauces
Serves: Makes 9-10 sticks which can serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a main


450g pork (or beef, prawn, chicken or tofu if you prefer)

For the marinade:
½  red onion or 2 shallots
2 large garlic cloves
3 stalks lemon grass (white part only)
4-5 sprigs coriander
1cm knob ginger
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
100ml coconut milk
10  wooden or bamboo skewers

For the Peanut Sauce:
120gm salted roasted peanuts
2 shallots/ ½ small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 lemongrass stalk
1 small hot red chilli (e.g. birdseye)
200 ml coconut milk
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime

For the cucumber and yellow pepper relish salad:
Half a cucumber (about 250g)
1 yellow pepper
1 small hot red chilli (e.g. birdseye)1 shallot, very finely sliced or ¼ onion
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt


  1. First make the marinade. You should do this ideally 8 hours before cooking or even the night before. Very finely chop the onion/shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli (seeds included) and coriander. Then make into a paste either with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. If using a mortar and pestle, start with the hardest ingredient and adding the softest ingredient last. So pound the lemongrass first, then the chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander and finally onion.
  2. Add all the other marinade ingredients and stir well.
  3. Cut the pork into cubes about 1 inch in size, removing any fat. Pour all of the marinade over the pork. Cover and refrigerate.
  4. While the pork is marinating make the peanut sauce. Start by roasting the peanuts – this gives them a deeper flavour and colour. Spread them out on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven for about 5 minutes, shaking the sheet after a couple of minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Either in a food process or with a mortar and pestle grind the peanuts. It’s up to you how chunky you want the sauce to be. Some should be very finely ground as this will thicken the sauce, but also leave plenty of larger chunks to give the sauce crunch.
  5. Finely chop the onion/shallot, chilli, garlic and lemongrass. Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil for about a minute. Then add the chilli, lemongrass and garam masala and fry for a further minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate until shortly before serving.
  6. A little while before you’re ready to cook the skewers, make the relish salad. If you want to prepare this in advance, don’t pour on the dressing more than an hour before you want to eat as it will make the vegetables less crunchy. Prepare the dressing first. Finely chop the chilli (seeds as well). Add the vinegar, sugar, salt.
  7. Peel and deseed the cucumber and slice into medium sized chunks. Chop the yellow pepper into chunks of the same size. Finely slice the shallots. Pour over the dressing.
  8. An hour before you are ready to cook the pork, soak the skewers in water to prevent them from burning during cooking.
  9. When the pork has finished marinating, thread the cubes onto the skewers – about 4 or 5 cubes per skewer. Lay the skewers out on a wire rack and place over a baking sheet covered with foil (to catch the drips). Place the skewers under a hot grill and cook for about 5-6 minutes on each size, until they are nicely browned all over. The meat should still be tender inside, not tough.
  10. Serve the skewers with the relish salad and the peanut dipping sauce.


1 comment:

  1. Sounds delicious. I think that we're due for a weekend jaunt to Singapore sometime soon - I haven't been there since I was 6 years old! I can't wait for all the food!!!