I can’t get no Satay-sfaction!

One of my favourite Malaysian foods (and Indonesian foods!) is satay. This snack just seems to fit so well with other foods in the region, such as rice and vegetables. As such, you will find satay on the menu at almost all pasar Malays and food courts – perfect for a hungry traveller like me! But the quality of satay varies a lot from town to town and often I find that the meat I am eating is undercooked…


Satay is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat, served with a sauce. Satay may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, or even fish. The most authentic version uses skewers from the midrib of the coconut palm frond, although bamboo skewers are often used. These are grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasonings, including sambal, which is an old favourite of mine!


Satay originated in Java, Indonesia. It is available almost anywhere in Indonesia, where it has become a national dish. It is also popular in many other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

Satay is a very popular delicacy in Indonesia and can be obtained there from a travelling satay vendor or at a roadside warung, whereas in Malaysia I found satay served more frequently in modern restaurants or sampled during traditional celebration feasts. I found that the best satay I ever tried in Indonesia was in Bali, and the variety there is called sate lilit. In Malaysia, I think my visit to Gurney Drive in Penang was where I sampled the best satay, and on that occasion it was sumptuously flame-grilled before my eyes after ordering!

Close comparisons of satay are yakitori from Japan, shish kebab from Turkey, chuanr from China, and sosatie from South Africa. I love yakitori, especially chicken skin and karaage chicken varieties, although nothing can beat an authentic plate of satay, especially if it’s served with sambal!

It must be remarked upon that satay is one of those finger foods that can sometimes be the cause of some upset stomachs, due to food poisoning or whatnot, yet when it’s done right, these delicious grilled and skewered meats will remind you of just why you love South East Asian food in the first place!

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