After spending a few weeks in the polar vortex, my family and I returned to the Bay Area in mid-January to discover that summer has come early this year. Really early. Dire drought emergency and looming water rationing aside, I did what any self-respecting Californian would do: I quickly hid my East Coast winter parka and fleece leggings in the basement, donned short sleeves and sunglasses, and pulled out the barbecue. To be honest, I felt a little giddy as I plucked a handful of ripe, red cherry tomatoes off a bush and popped one between my teeth, the sweet taste of summer filling my mouth. It was high time for Thai chicken satay.
I’ve spent years trying to recreate the flavors I fell in love with on the streets of Bangkok. With the help of my Thai ex-patriot friend, who also happens to be an excellent cook, I have finally come close with this easy recipe for the classic Thai street food specialty, chicken satay. The marinade for these simple grilled chicken skewers includes signature Thai ingredients like lemongrass, turmeric (ideally fresh, but dried is fine, too), fresh galangal (you can substitute fresh ginger), chilies, and fish sauce. Palm sugar assures authentic Southeast Asian flavor, but dark brown cane sugar is a fine substitute. The end result is pure heaven on a stick.
So as my Facebook feed fills with whines from the East about yet another snow storm, I’ll be doing rain dances out by the barbecue, breathing in the mouth-watering smells of the Bangkok night market, snacking on sweet mid-winter tomatoes fresh off the vine while I wait to devour my beloved Thai chicken satay. If you are lucky enough to live in a place that actually has winter, well, how can you resist bringing a bit of the tropics inside to brighten up a long, dark, snowy evening? And by the way, would you mind sending a bit of that winter weather our way?Print
This simple Thai chicken satay marinade can be mixed up in minutes in a food processor. Making it by hand takes only a few minutes more. Serve with an authentic Thai peanut sauce (recipe to come!) for dipping and sticky rice if you can get it for a treat that will transport you to the food stalls of Bangkok’s famous Charoen Krung Road.
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup minced lemongrass
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 to 2 fresh red chilies or ½–1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 inch-long piece galangal or fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh turmeric or ½ teaspoon dried turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into strips (or use chicken breast tenders)
- Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a food processor and process until smooth (alternatively, slice the shallots thinly and mince the lemongrass, garlic, chilies, galangal or ginger, and fresh turmeric and stir together in a bowl, along with the remaining ingredients.)
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken and marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and as long as overnight.
- Soak bamboo skewers in water for about 30 minutes and heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.
- Thread the marinated chicken meat onto the skewers (discard the marinade) and grill for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked through. Serve immediately.