Chicken and Rice: Mutton Satay

This recipe is an extract of Shu Han Lee's first cookbook Chicken and RiceRead more about Southeast Asian cooking with Shu here.

These delicious skewers of spice-marinated meat are found across many Southeast Asian cultures, but I am partial to the Malay-style satay that I grew up with. The whiff of smoke and satay spices would immediately transport me back to Sunday afternoons, when the neighbourhood Satay Man would come around touting his wares illegally. My sisters and I would wait impatiently for his honking, and then run to his motorbike-driven mobile kitchen at the first ‘toot toot!’ We brought our own plate and bowl, and he would pile the plate high with sticks of freshly grilled satay, pressed rice cakes and cucumbers, and fill our bowl generously with homemade peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is one of the most distinct and important aspects of Malay satay – it is rich, chunky and aromatic with freshly roasted peanuts and, unlike the Thai satay peanut sauce, flavoured with tamarind instead of coconut.

For the skewers

  • 300g boneless mutton shoulder (You can also use lamb shoulder, beef steak or chicken thighs.)
  • 20 wooden skewers

For the marinade

  • 10 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, white part only, bruised
  • 2 slices of galangal
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 120g unrefined cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil

For the peanut sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
  • 200g skinless roasted peanuts
  • 4 dried red chillies, soaked leftover marinade
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of unrefined light brown sugar, or to taste big pinches of sea salt, to taste

For serving

  • Cucumber slices roughly chopped
  • Red onion roughly chopped


  1. Cut the mutton into 2.5cm long strips about 2cm thick, or get your butcher to do it for you. Blend or pound the ingredients for the marinade together to get a fine paste. Place the meat in the marinade and let it sit overnight. Soak the skewers in water overnight too, to prevent them from burning later.
  2. The next day, thread the mutton pieces on to skewers, reserving the marinade.
  3. Make the peanut sauce before you grill the meat, or if you have a minion to help you, you could do both at once. Soak the tamarind in 250ml of hot water for 15 minutes, until softened. Massage and squeeze to get the juices from the pulp, then strain and discard the pulp. Place half the peanuts in the food processor and pulse to roughly chop. Set aside. Finely grind the remaining peanuts – these ground peanuts help to thicken the sauce. Set aside.
  4. Blend the soaked chillies with the reserved marinade to make a rempah spice paste. Fry the paste in the groundnut oil slowly over a medium low heat, until fragrant. Pour in the watery tamarind paste, along with the ground and chopped peanuts, and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with sugar and salt, then reduce by boiling, or thin out with water as needed. The sauce should be deep golden and have a rich, but pourable consistency.
  5. When ready to cook, fire up your barbecue, or preheat the oven to 190°C/ gas 5. Grill the mutton skewers over indirect heat until nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes each side, then shift them over to a high heat and grill for about 1 minute on each side, or until golden-brown and charred. Alternatively, cook in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven setting to ‘grill’ and grill until lightly charred, flipping the skewers midway.
  6. Serve the satay straight away, with plenty of peanut sauce and slices of cucumber and red onion.


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