Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks' January Challenge - Satay

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

Aaaah, the first DC challenge of the year! I was very grateful to our hostess for choosing a relatively stress-free challenge: no running around looking for out-of-season ingredients, no spending hours perfecting a technique. Just a simple dish, packed with flavour. Around this time of year, when I find myself scrambling to make up for having slacked off during the holidays, a lighter challenge was very much appreciated.

On top of that, the challenge dish, satay, had long been on my list of “Things I Love to Order in Restaurants and Should Try Making Myself.” I’m usually told that these savoury skewers originated in Indonesia, but they’re pretty much ubiquitous these days, and we were given a Thai-inspired recipe from a British cookbook. Talk about the effects of globalization! But I’m all for fusing and taking inspiration and ingredients from other cultures and regions – as long as it yields good food!

Speaking of borrowing ingredients from other regions, I learnt something that surprised me the other day: capers apparently originated in Central Asia. Which is weird, because they aren’t really used in Central Asian cuisine at all, to my knowledge. Also, it begs the question: is there anything in Italian cuisine that didn’t come from the Orient? :-P

And no, this has absolutely nothing to do with this month’s challenge, which didn’t include capers (good thing too, it sounds like a terrible combination). I’m just making chit-chat, filling up space – because the fact is, I really don’t have a whole lot to say about this challenge. I was woefully unimaginative, just followed the recipe, and I don’t even have a disaster or catastrophe to entertain you with. All I can tell you is that I ended up having a delicious meal.

Our hostess left us a lot of freedom when it came to preparation and ingredients. I made the satay shortly after coming home from vacation, perhaps the only time in my life when I found myself craving… chicken, of all things. Usually, I associate chicken with ordinary days: we often have it at least once a week, in some form or another. Chicken is what we make on days when we feel like cooking up something safe and familiar, or when we need a neutral base for stronger condiments or side-dishes – the chicken itself is rarely the focal point of the meal (except when it’s roasted whole). But on the day I did the challenge, I was returning from a flurry of restaurants and parties, having gorged on things like Wiener schnitzel, fish soup, foie gras, stuffed cabbage, sushi, Argentinean steak, oysters, gourmet cheese, beef tongue, garlic shrimp, sautéed duck, gougères,, and truffled scallops (not all at once, obviously). Pretty much everything except chicken. By then, I was actually missing this humble bird.

So, chicken breast satay it was. I marinated the poultry slices for a couple of hours according to the recipe, adding a touch more fresh ginger and spices. Then I skewered them and broiled them in the oven. I slightly overcooked them, but they were still moist enough. And the marinade flavours were vibrant in every mouthful!

Of course, no satay is complete without a spicy peanut sauce. I’ve actually made this type of sauce very often, even though I had never made satay before: it goes well with spring rolls, and makes for a great stir-fry. This recipe was a little different from the one I normally turn to, with more kinds of spices. It was very tasty, a worthy alternative to my regular sauce – although it could have used a little more heat. I also had some homemade ponzu sauce leftover from a previous dinner. Ponzu is basically soy sauce with sake and yuzu (or lemon) juice. Even though it’s a typically Japanese sauce, I had a feeling it might go well with the Thai satay. And indeed, the slight acidity of the sauce complemented the sharpness of the ginger, and echoed with the lemon that was already present in the marinade.

And… that’s really all there is to report. It might have been more interesting to do as our hostess suggested: use a tougher cut of meat, marinate it for longer, and see how tender it comes out. But like I said: I really, really wanted chicken. I did consider using thighs instead of breasts, but the thighs seemed more difficult to slice into a proper satay-type shape. I just wasn’t feeling up to struggling with raw chicken any more than I had to.

So in the end, I got a very good meal out of it, and finally crossed satay off my “to-do” list. A great thank you to Cuppy for this tasty challenge! Please see the challenge recipe for yourself at the Daring Kitchen, and check the DC Blogroll to see the other participants’ mouth-watering dishes!


  1. it looks delicious.
    I think your post is amazing. love the idea that Italy stole half Asia`s food ideas.

  2. What a beauty! Looks delicious! It was also my first time makin satay and I ejoyed it a lot :)
    Cheers. Anula.

  3. yumyumyum...i love the sound of the ponzu sauce, simple and delicious!

  4. You're the second person I am reading tonight with nothing much to say about the Still looks very good though! I was not too impressed with the sauce to be completely honest. It was good, but I had expected it to be better..

  5. Hahah! Yes! I was hoping someone would notice the globalization! :D

    Your post was a joy to read, thank you. And I'm now convinced (between climbinghighak and you) that I need to try ponzu sauce. :)

  6. Very pretty! Everything sounds really really yummy =D.

  7. Oh so pretty in presentation. Amen for easy indeed! And yummy. Cool fact about the caper indeed

  8. Gorgeous food you tried and your satay is so yummy looking great work and nice that you had chicken at last. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  9. Very nice writing, enjoyable to read, thank you! Ponzu sauce must have been nice with this :) And I love your plating with the small bowls of sauce, very pretty.

  10. interesting caper fact! i've also been told that pizza (or something in its form) was actually created somewhere in Asia and later adapted into its current italian form. HMM, not really sure if that's true but like you said, i'm all in for globalization and fusion as well! and yay for crossing satay off our lists, we're off to a good start!

  11. Magnifique billet, j'aime beaucoup les câpres et je n'avais aucune idée d'où elles provenaient!
    Avec la sauce ponzu cela devait être délicieux, belle présentation Valérie!

  12. Nice post. Did capers really original in Central Asia? I like the tip about the ponzu sauce. Will have to try that.


    Janet from Canada

  13. Val, your satay, photos and plating are gorgeous..totally put mine to shame! If I don't find a place with lots of natural ight soon, I'll go CRAZY! I'm so sick of artificially lit photos *sigh* Oh, well, you make due with what you have at the moment! Also, congrats on your new fun to get to know it and learn as you go along! :)

  14. Your satay looks so juicy!! yum yum!