2poundsboneless, skinless chicken breastsfresh, if possible. I slice each breast through its waistline to create two fillets about 1/3 inch thick. I then cut these into strips about ¾ inch wide. A good butcher will happily do this for you.
For the chicken’s marinade
4clovesgarlicpeeled, finely chopped and crushed to a rough paste
1yellow onionmedium-sized, peeled and finely chopped
1tablespoonfresh root gingerfinely chopped, skin and all
1tablespoonpalm sugarI use the ‘rock’ type that comes in little round cakes about 2 ¼ inches in diameter. I reckon one of these is equivalent to a good tablespoon.
1tablespoonfish sauceoften labelled as Nam Pla
For the peanut sauce
4serrano pepperssliced into 1/8-inch rounds, seeds and all (fresh cayenne peppers work here as well)
6ounceswhole dry-roasted salted peanuts skin-on
1yellow onionmedium-sized, peeled and finely chopped.
1 1/4cupscoconut milk
1stalklemongrassvery finely chopped. I used a stalk about 6 inches long.
1tablespoondark soy saucethe mushroom flavored variety is my favorite
2tablespoonslime juiceapproximately the juice of one fresh lime
For the cucumber relish
6dried Thai bird’s eye chiliesI used ones about an inch long and ground them roughly, seeds and all, in a pestle and mortar. 3 level teaspoons of dried flakes will be just as good.
2English cucumberseach about 12 -14 inches long, peeled and sliced lengthwise into thin ribbons. I use a good potato peeler to slice off ribbons down the full length of each peeled cucumber. Easily done.
1red onionmedium-sized, peeled, halved and very finely sliced
4tablespoonsgranulated white sugar
4tablespoonswhite vinegarI used rice vinegar, but an everyday white wine vinegar is just dandy
Break apart the palm sugar and dissolve it together with the tamarind paste in 2 tablespoons boiling water. Pour all this into a mixing bowl that’s easily big enough to hold all the chicken, and stir in the marinade’s remaining ingredients.
Add the chicken strips and use your fingers to thoroughly coat them in the marinade. The chicken’s going to sit in the marinade while you make the cucumber relish, and then the peanut sauce.
Making the cucumber relish
Begin by putting the cucumber, onion, and chili into a pretty serving bowl.
Now use a small saucepan on low heat to thoroughly dissolve the sugar in the water — but don’t let it boil. As soon as the sugar’s dissolved, turn off the heat and stir in the salt and vinegar.
Add this sugar-water mix into the bowl, give the relish a really thorough stir, and set it in the refrigerator to completely cool.
Making the peanut sauce.
Tip the peanuts and lemongrass into your food processor. Give the mix a few pulsing blitzes until the peanuts turn nicely chunky. Take a little care here to avoid turning the peanuts into paste — you certainly want your sauce to have a definite crunchy-peanut texture rather than being smooth.
Now add the peanut and lemongrass mix to a saucepan together with the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.
Set the pan on a low medium heat, stir well, and allow it to come to a barely bubbling boil. As soon as that happens, drop the heat to low and let the sauce simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Give the sauce a few good stirs as it simmers away to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan.
Turn off the heat and cover the pan — sauce done.
Preparing the chicken satay skewers
You’re aiming here to get even amounts of the chicken strips onto each of the 8 bamboo skewers. Carefully thread each of the strips onto a skewer so that you can concertina each strip into a roughly squarish, fairly compact block. You want each skewer to be about two-thirds filled with those block-ish strips, pressed pretty firmly one against the other.
Cooking the satay skewers*
Set a big skillet over a high heat and add the coconut oil.
The moment it starts smoking, add four of the chicken skewers, side-by-side, in a single layer across the skillet. You want to let them sear on that high heat for two minutes before turning them on to their opposite sides for another two minutes’ searing. What you’re aiming for here is to get a good, darkly golden char on two sides of each squarishly-sided skewer.
Now turn each skewer onto a fresh side and let it cook for just 60 seconds — just 60 seconds — then do the same for the final side.
Quickly remove them from the skillet, and set them aside on a warm plate. Now repeat the whole process for the next four skewers — you might need to add a little more coconut oil to the skillet to cook these.
Serving your classic chicken satay with peanut sauce
As the last four skewers are sizzling away, gently heat the peanut sauce over a medium flame until it just starts to bubble. Turn off the heat, stir in the lime juice, and transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.
Place two chicken skewers on each diner’s plate, and let them help themselves to the peanut sauce and cucumber relish.
* I prefer to do this in a big, 12-inch skillet set on a high heat rather than on the bbq. Why? Well, it’s partly because I’m better at a kitchen stovetop with a skillet, and partly because I’m cooking the peanut sauce there anyway. I do also find that the direct heat of a bbq can tend to dry the chicken and reduce its succulence.To drink? On a brightly happy summer’s day, my choice would be that fine Thai beer, Singha. Nicely chilled and poured with a lovely creamy head for me, please.