Balinese chicken satay


Like all things Balinese, there is an art to constructing the perfect chicken skewer. I may not quite have mastered it, or at least this is the message I took from the bemused head shaking of our friendly hotel chef come-satay-instructor. But then, who knows what exactly should be made of this!

In any case, a pinching motion, I’m told, is the best to get the minced chicken to stick to the lemongrass skewer. When I tried again at home, it was easy enough, so perhaps I exaggerate the artfulness – certainly it’s easier to make satay on nice thick stems of lemongrass, than on spindly bamboo skewers – easier, prettier, and a lot tastier too. 


(Makes 12 skewers)

  • 500g minced chicken
  • Juice of 1 kaffir lime
  • 50ml coconut cream
  • 3 tablespoons of shredded coconut – toasted
  • 12 stems of lemongrass (to form skewers)

   / Bali Spice Paste

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small bird’s eye chilli
  • 4cm piece of galangal
  • 4cm piece of ginger
  • 2 stems of lemongrass
  • 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Salt & pepper

   / Peanut Satay Sauce

  • 150g raw peanuts – peeled
  • ½ a large shallot – chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1 red bird’s eye chilli – chopped
  • 2cm piece of galangal – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 120ml water
  • 2 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet soy or kecap manis

Start by making the spice paste as this will be used to marinate the chicken.

Roughly chop the shallot, garlic, chilli, galangal, ginger, and two of the stems of lemongrass (use the white part only). Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a heavy-based pan, add the chopped ingredients along with the whole coriander seeds, and ground turmeric, and fry everything together until the onions are softened and the spices fragrant (up to 6 minutes).  

Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the brown sugar, stirring to combine this with the spices. Then transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and blend until you have a paste.

Now return the paste to the pan along, with another tablespoon of peanut oil, and fry over medium heat for a further 3 minutes, or until the paste is fragrant and beginning to colour. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and allow it to cool.

Mix the cooled spice paste into the minced chicken along with the coconut cream, toasted coconut, and kaffir lime juice. Place into an airtight container or cover, and refrigerate over night, or for at least 5 hours, until you are ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce by spreading your peanuts onto a tray and roasting at 180°C for 6-8 minutes, or until golden in colour. Do keep a careful eye on progress as you do so – the nuts can go from being pale to burnt in a matter of minutes due to their high oil content.

Next, fry the shallot, garlic, chilli, and galangal until soft, adding the brown sugar after 2 minutes, and stirring frequently to prevent the spices burning.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor, along with the roasted peanuts and blend until you reach your preferred consistency – still with some crunch, or completely smooth, as you like it.

Place the blended mix in a clean pan, then add the water, caster sugar, and soy. Place over a low-medium heat and simmer until the sauce thickens to a nice consistency. Finally, refrigerate the sauce until you are ready to use. 

To make the satay skewers, pinch up a small ball of the marinated chicken and work the mince onto the head of the lemongrass stem, tapering it to meet the stem at the bottom. Squeeze along the length of the meat to ensure that it is well cohered to the lemongrass and evenly distributed all around. Continue to make up the remaining skewers in the same way.

When ready, fire up the BBQ or heat a cast iron grill plate until very hot and place the skewers on to cook. Carefully turn these when necessary so that they brown evenly on all sides and are cooked through.

While the skewers are cooking, warm the peanut sauce, either in a pan, or in a microwave, and then serve this along side the satay when done.