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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It takes more than grilling meat to make good satay.



It look easy.. thread little pieces of marinated meat through bamboo skewers, grill them over fire and serve with nasi impít, cucumber, onion and peanut sauce.




Pendek Satay's skewered meats are only cooked once an order has been placed while no meat is taken out from the kitchen to be left near the grill to avoid contamination.
But if you were to talk to a satay seller, and l mean really engage him in conversation, he would tell you it’s not easy to make great satay.

First, there is the meat. Discerning cooks complain about the poor quality of meat sold in thel pasar. But if you have to sell a stick of satay for just a few sen, you can’t afford to use air-flown beef, right?

However, we found some satay establishments which bucked the trend in their quest to make great satay.

“We only use the best quality meat,” said Kassim Hamid of Pondok Satay in USJ8, Subang Jaya and asked: “Do you know any business that uses tenderloin to make satay?"

“We use tenderloin. It is more expensive than the other cuts,.but We are willing t0 bear the cost because tenderloin is tender and makes satay."

For his satay, Kassim uses chilled Indian beef and chilled Australian lamb and mutton - in other words, air-flown meat. (The chicken is local.) His beef satay sells for just 95 Sen, the lamb and mutton for RM 1.20 and the chicken for 80 Sen.



Satay Station director Muhammad Rahmat Zulkarnain believes that satay is only delicious if fat is present.
The satay is prepared and chilled earlier in the day. Kassim keeps the cold chain going by cutting his meat in a cold room and storing­ it in chillers to retain the freshness. “We also don’t use frozen meat because it compromises the taste,” he said.

When it comes to chicken, Kassim prefers to use skinless breast and thigh which he said are best for grilling. “There is fat layered in the chicken thigh that keeps the meat moist so you don’t need the Visible fat,” he said. The drier breast meat is alternated with a piece of thigh meat on each skewer.”

Another satay expert, Satay Station (in Kampong Pandan) director Muhammad Zulkamain, believes that satay is only delicious if fat -is present.

“The fat adds flavour and sometimes it become crunchy in the grilling and that adds texture to the satay."

Satay Station uses meat from the Whole chicken and a thick piece of skin and fat is sandwiched in the middle of the meat pieces - this goes for the beef satay as well.

Rahmat also uses imported air-flown Australian beef to make his

beef satay which he sells for RM1.60 a stick (chicken satay goes for RM1.40). Satay Station’s meats are cut in chunkier pieces and make for more substantial bites.

Using good meat and the right cutis equally important as having a great recipe for the marinade. But when it Comes to the marinade, Rahmat did not want to reveal too much and would only say that it includes the satay marinade basics such as shallot, turmeric, salt, sugar... “dan lain-lain.”

Every satay master has to find his own secret recipe for a good marinade. “You do it by trial and error... you just keep adding and removing ingredients until you Íind the perfect marinade that people like," said Rahmat.

But Rahmat did reveal that it’s not a case of the longer you marinate the meat the better the taste.

According to him, the meat should be marinated for no longer than two hours, and this is crucial for maintaining the taste of the Chicken.

“If you leave it to marinate for too long, it would taste different when you gn'll it.”

l-le also added that it is important to ensure that the meat stays chilled at all times until it is ready for grilling.

Skewers of meat grilling over an open lire is probably the most familiar image most of us have of satay. It is this open-flame grilling that gives satay its desirable characteristics: smokey with slightly bitter, charred bits to counter the sweet and spicy marinade.

The small cuts 0f meat is best grilled for seven to eight minutes over charcoal fire, turning three to four times in the process, and at each turn, the meat gets a brushing of the marinade.

“We add some honey and more sugar to the original marinade and use it to glaze the satay when grilling,” said Kassim.

Of course, satay is only as good as its peanut sauce, but surprisingly, both Rahmat and Kassim said that there is nothing special in their recipe that cannot be found Online. Or they were being evasive.

“It all depends on the amount of each ingredient you use. We can all use the same ingredients to make the peanut sauce - peanuts, chilli, shallots and so on - but it can turn out differently. Like l said earlier, it’s all down to trial error.”

But if you are lazy to make peanut sauce from scratch, Kassim has a quick for you. “Add sambal paste and sugar to a tub of crunchy peanut butter and you will still get a good peanut sauce to dip your Satay in. Of course, that’s not how We do it, but you can always improvise,” said Kassìm.
I think they are just giving me the runaround. But you get it - you need a secret recipe to make good satay and keep it distinct from the competition.

By Sharmila Nair




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