Satay is a shish kebab style dish that has long been popular in Indonesia and Thailand. It is most frequently associated with Thai food, where it is made from cubes of beef, chicken, or lamb, and may be dipped in a traditional peanut relish or sauce. Food historians are not certain if satay was first introduced in Indonesia or in Southeast Asia. Regardless of origin, both Thai and Indonesian variations are praised by fans as quite delicious dishes.
Indonesian satay has several popular variants. Satay Madura is one of the best known and most popular. It usually uses lamb or chicken, marinated in sugar, green onions, soy sauce and salt. The bits of marinated meat are then skewered and quickly grilled. Traditional accompaniments include curry and basmati rice.
Other variants of Indonesian satay make use of beef, which is finely chopped and pressed together into a paste or ball, which is then skewered and grilled. Indonesian versions often use the organs of animals or turtle meat. Someone new to the dish may find that these variations taste somewhat unusual.
Thai satay may also use meats most US diners do not consume regularly. Some popular varieties include those made from goat. Some dishes from both Thailand and Indonesia marinate and cook only the skin of the animal, which is valued for its crunchiness when cooked.
Often, excellent satay is not purchased in restaurants but directly from food stalls, which are found in abundance in places like Singapore. If a consumer is ask about the meat, and is familiar with the language, he or she can inquire about the meat’s origins.
Satay is popular in several European countries. Holland is particularly known for its excellent offerings, since Holland occupied parts of Indonesia from the 17th through the early 19th century. Netherlanders brought home this fabulous dish, and many other Indonesian specialties, which has influenced Holland’s cuisine to this day.
Diners can easily find Thai satay in virtually any Thai restaurant. Major cities throughout Europe and the US may have a few Indonesian restaurants offering the dish as well, although these are less common and often less popular than Thai food.