Chicken Satay with a Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

This recipe was inspired by Jean Kwok’s novel, Searching for Sylvie Lee.

Book reference, p.93: Amy is in Amsterdam and she speaks about the leftovers from Helena and Willem’s restaurant. “Their enormous fridge is packed with spicy beef in black bean sauce, grilled shrimp, and pork skewers in hot peanut sauce.”

A former Dutch colony, Indonesia’s dishes have made an impact on cultural foods here in the Netherlands. Satay is one of many dishes you can find on the Dutch dinner table. Made with chunks of chicken or pork and marinated in a simple sauce, the meat is pierced onto skewers, and the satay is cooked on the grill. The marinade I have created is based on an Indonesian recipe which features a subtle hit of fresh and lightly spicy ginger.

After grilling the skewers, the tradition is to serve them with a warm peanut sauce. In my experience over the past 15 years of living here, without a doubt, the Dutch love their “pindakaas,” (peanut butter!) This sauce makes a beautiful accompaniment to the satay. Peanut butter is used, along with a good hit of coconut milk, and a layer of heat coming from a bit of chopped fresh chili pepper.

Top Tip: When preparing this dish, first make the marinade and place the meat in there to absorb all of those lovely flavours. While this is happening, you’ve got time to make the peanut sauce so it’s ready to go once the skewers are cooked.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Marinating Time: 2 hours

Cooking Time: 15 – 20 minutes

Total Time: 3 hrs (includes marinating time)

Serves: 8

Ingredients for the Chicken Satay Marinade

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
125ml (½ cup) soy sauce or tamari
  • 125ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb of ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
½ red chili, finely chopped – remove the seeds and membrane if you want less heat
24 +/- wooden skewers (20cm; 8 inch), soaked for at least 30 mins in water

Ingredients for the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • ½ Tbsp coconut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced (double this if you want a more intense ginger flavour)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small red chili pepper, finely chopped; (for lower heat, seeds and membrane removed)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce (or kecap manis – a sweet soy sauce)
  • 80ml (⅓ cup) chunky peanut butter
  • one – 400ml (13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk

Directions for the Marinade

To begin, make the marinade by placing all prepped and measured ingredients into a bowl or container that will hold the chicken strips as they marinate. Set this aside while you prepare the chicken skewers by soaking them in water during the time the meat is marinating.

Directions for the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Throughout the process, keep tasting the sauce. You may want to add more garlic or ginger, or more peanut butter. Heat the coconut oil over a medium-low heat. Add the chopped shallot and ginger, and sautée for two minutes, until they start to soften. Next, add in the garlic and chili pepper and cook for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, and allow the peanut butter to melt. Finally, stir in the coconut milk and heat the mixture through. Your sauce is ready to serve!

Directions for the Chicken Satay

While the skewers are soaking, prepare the chicken by first placing each breast between two pieces of waxed paper, and using a rolling pin, flatten them to about a 1 cm (½ inch) thickness. Next, cut each breast into three or four strips and then cut these strips into pieces that are about 5 cm (2 inches) in width. Place these chicken strips into the marinade and allow to sit for about two hours.

When the chicken has been marinated, remove the skewers from the soaking water and start threading the chicken pieces onto the sticks. I did a bit of an accordion weave on mine and tried to space out the chicken so it wouldn’t be clumped together. (If the chicken pieces are too thick, or too close together, they will take longer to cook.) As you finish each skewer, place it on a plate, ready to cook.

These are best made in a grill pan, or on your grill. But if you don’t have either of those, a regular frying pan will do. Over medium heat, heat the pan you have on hand with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Once warm, place the skewers on the heat and cook until they are brown on one side. (Try not to over-crowd the pan as this will prevent the chicken from browning to a crispy outside.) Flip the skewer, and cook through on the other side. Depending on the thickness of your meat, the skewers will take 4-5 minutes per side.

When all of the skewers are cooked, present them with the peanut sauce and enjoy! Truth be told, the Dutch would eat the satay with “patat” or, French fries. You can also serve this as a main dish, and add steamed rice and a green salad to keep it on the heart healthy side.

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