This is easy. You take a few small pieces of marinated beef chicken, pork, lamb, caribou or whatever else is on hand, thread it onto long sticks and pop it in the fire. Eat it right off the stick.
Simple. Well, sort of.
Sates, satay, sateh or South-east Asian kababs, don't exactly happen lickety-split. First you have to have to decide which variation to make. There is the original Java or Indonesian recipe which calls for soaking the meat in a variety of weird spices like laos, sereh powder, kunci, ketumbar . There is the Thai version which is spiced with hot chiles. And there is the Vietnamese version (originally the Vietnamese came from Indonesia, southern China and elsewhere back in the B.C.'s) which is lightly seasoned with lemon grass and lemon juice. (Just as an interesting bit of table manner trivia, the Vietnamese are the only people in southeast Asia who don't eat with their fingers.) Chopped-up turtle meat mixed with coconut milk is a popular sate' in Bali.
The meat should be trimmed of all fat and cut across the grain in thin strips about 6 inches long. After the meat has been marinated, the small bits have to be threaded on thin bamboo sticks.
It takes about 25 sticks to feed a moderately hungry person. Then you must make the peanut sauce, which is what turns the skewered meat into a sat'e. Or you can get already prepared cheater's sauce-in-a-can at the Thai Room and a wide variety of Indonesian spices at Georgetown Coffee, Tea & Spice.
It took me about six hours to prepare chicken, beef and pork sate for four, not counting the actual cooking using an intricate Indonesian recipe. The cook never gets to eat with anybody because he has to stand over the bibachi or broiler, juggling 30 or so sticks so they don't burn.
In Indonesia there are sate vendors who squat under small charcoal grills attached to shoulder yolks and ring bells to attract customers. Each vendor has a particular method of preparation and each attracts a certain following Vendors may be third or fourth generation sate sellerss whose recipes are handed down from father to son.
There aren't any vendors in Washington yet, but there are restraurants which serve sate.The food section tasted Washington's offering and found a variety most of them quite good.
Germaine's 2400 Wisconsin Ave. NW (965-1185). Vietnamese sates (beef, pork, shrimp and chicken) do not have the obvious spiciness of either the Thai or Indonesian sates. The small delicate chunks (rather than strips) of beef were rare and the shrimp springy and fresh. The chicken was a little bland, but the pork had a strong smoky taste of the coals. cThe peanut sauce, though in small portions (they will happily bring more), was well seasoned. Lunch: $1.80 for two sticks of beef (or chicken or pork) and $2.75 for one stick of shrimp. Dinner: $3.60 for four sticks of either pork, chicken or beef; $3.95 for twosticks of shrimp and $4.25 for a combination.
Siam Inn, 11407 Amherst Ave., Wheaton (942-0075). The Moo satay, or pork sate and the only sate offered, was tender and had a good smokey scent. Unlike the other Thai sauces, the peanut sauce was sweet rather than hot. Don't be surprised if you sit down to eat with the owner's entire extended family. Dinner: $2.95 for nine sticks.
The Thai Room, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW (244-5933). The most inexpensive of all the sates. The pork was tastier than the beef, which is slightly dry. The meat is sliced into small, thin strips and evenly grilled. See below.
The Thai Room II, 527 13th St. NW (638-2444). A downtown clone of the above. The peanut sauce moated with chili oil was a good clue to how hot a sate can be. But not too hot to mask the fact it had been grilled on coals and that the slivered meat was tender and flavorful. It is served with a crunchy marinated cucumber salad and toast points. Lunch and dinner. $3 for 12 sticks.
The Orchid Restaurant, 2014 M. St. NW (223-5480). Before their next-door neighbors (CBS, which now owns the building) tear down the restaurant, taste the pork sate. It was better than the beef, which wasn't as tender. The pork, however, had a tangy curry kick and the peanut sauce the best we tasted. The cucumber-onion-green chili salad marinated in a sweet vinegar, which comes with the sate is excellent. Toast points with the crust cut off are served to scrape up the last bits of peanut sauce. Ten sticks for $4.05.
Chez Maria, 3338 M St. NW (337-4283). Although not listed on the lunch menu, pork, beef and shrimp sates are available for lunch and dinner. Like Germaine's the meat was cut in chunks, rather than ribbons, but was a little dry. The peanut sauce, poured over the sate rather than served on the side, was seasoned with chilis and sesame seeds. Three sticks of beef $3.50 pork $3.25, shrimp $3.75 and the combination $3.95.
Bali Indonesian Restruant, 1426 21st St. NW (293-1776). The opportunity to offer an authentic sate at the only Indonesian restaurant in Washington, is not here. The sticks of skewered meat were nicely grilled, but there was a slight steak sauce smell. The peanut sauce was whipped to a fluffy, stuffy mush and was interchangable with the dressing on their Indonesian salad.Although four sticks of either beef ($5.75), chicken ($4.95) or lamb ($6.25) are offered on the dinner menu, it was difficult to tell the difference between them.
These recipes take considerably less time than six hours. INDONESIAN EMBASSY SATE (4 to 6 servings) 2 cups chicken or lamb cut into 3/4-inch cubes or 6 inch-by 1/4-inch strips 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice 1/2 cup water 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 20 to 25 small bamboo skewers
Put 5 cubes of meat (or one strip) on each skewer. Mix ingredients and marinate the meat in this mixture for 1 hour. Grill over charcoal in a hibachi, turning 2 to 3 times until meat is done. Serve hot with peanut sauce.
Note: For a spicier sate marinade small amounts of cardamon, tumeric, corinder and cumin can be added to taste. To grill sate indoors place enough oil in a cast iron skillet to just cover the bottom. Heat oil and place the skewers in pan, turning and basting with reserved marinade, until brown on all sides, or grill in the broiler under high heat. ORCHID RESTAURANT THAI SATE (makes 15 to 18 skewers) 1/2 pound beef or pork 1/4 tablespoon cumin 1/4 tablespoon coriander 1/2 tablespoon curry 2 tablespoons coconut milk 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Mix spices with coconut milk and spread over meat. Cut meat against the grain in strips or small 1/2-inch pieces and marinate for 1 hour. Grill in a hibachi over hot charcoal (when a white ash has formed over coals), or in the oven broiler. PEANUT SAUCE 4 tablespoons chopped onion 1 tablespoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 2 tablespoons oil 1 cup coconut milk Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1/2 cup peanut butter
Crush the onion, ginger, cardamom and red pepper flakes with a mortar and pestle and saute in oil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk, lemon juice, brown sugar and soy sauce and simer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add peanut better, combine well and simmer for another minute. Thin with water if necessary. Serve hot as a dip for sate with toast points..