Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to make Traditional Javanese Chicken Satay.

In order to draw this picture of a wandering Javanese satay seller from my childhood days in Singapore, I have to scratch and scrape my memory across more than half a century. It was a common sight then, to see hawkers selling their food on makeshift roadside stalls, pushcarts and even walking from one neighbourhood to the next to sell their food, balancing with a bamboo pole on their shoulders with two receptacles hanging from each ends. I do not know of anywhere in modern Singapore where traditional hawkers still plied their trades in this way. Their demise gradually started from the 1960s, when concerns over public health and the rapid development of the city led to a major consolidation of satay stalls at Beach Road, which came to be collectively called the Satay Club. Open only after sunset, it became a popular place for families dining out and a venue for young lovers to meet.
In those days, there were no tables when you eat at street hawkers and customers usually ate their satays sitting on very low stools around the hawker’s small makeshift stalls. Sauces were either served in common containers or poured over the satay sticks and ketupat (rice dumpling wrapped in a square shape with coconut palm leaves).
Although we seldom prepare the satay in the traditional way, we thought it is appropriate to post the traditional recipe which my wife has found in her old scrap book here.

The Traditional Javanese Satay Recipe:

2 kati (1kg) Chicken meat cut into thin strips.
Ingredients to finely pound (ground)
(a) 2tbsp Ketumbar (coriander seeds)
(b) 1tbsp jintan manis
(c) 1tbsp jintan puteh
(d) I thumb size fresh turmeric (1tsp tumeric powder)
(e) 5 dried chillies (1tsp chillies powder)
(f) 1 stalk serai (lemon grass, if unavailable use the rind of 1lemon)
(g) 2 slices langkuas (galangar, if unavailable use ginger)
(h) 2 tbsp palm sugar ( if unavailable use brown sugar/sugar)
(i) 1 tbsp thick tamarind juice(if unavailable use lemon juice)
(j) Salt to taste


1. Roast coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds separately and grind to make a paste.
2 Add tamarind /lemon juice to the paste. Add the sugar and tumeric powder.
3 This is the satay marinade. Cover the meat with this marinade and leave till overnight in the refrigerator.
4 Skewer the marinated meat with bamboo/steel skewers, and grill them. Turn the skewered meat over now and then. Each time you turn the skewered meat, baste them with the marinade.

Dipping Sauce for Satay:


1. 2tbsp Ketumbar (coriander seeds)
2. 1tbsp jintan manis (fennel seeds)
3. 1tbsp jintan puteh (cumin seeds)
4. 10 dried chillies (11/2 tsp chilli powder)
5. 10 shallots
6. 2 cloves garlic
7. 1 tsp blachan powder
8. 4 buah keras (candlenuts)
9. 1 stalk serai(lemon grass)
10. 1 cup roasted peanut ground not too finely (substitute crunchy peanut butter)
11. 4 tbsp palm sugar (brown sugar)
12. 1 1/2cup coconut milk
13. 1 tbsp tamarind juice(lemon juice)
14. Salt to taste.
15. 2 tbsp oil.

Grind ingredients 1-9 to a paste. Hear oil in pan and fry all grounded ingredient till fragrant. Add other ingredients and simmer in low heat till oil rises to the top. Serve as a dipping sauce with grilled satay.


  1. can translate this
    jintan manis??
    jintan puteh
    what is this?? where to find?

  2. Thank you Uncle Phil for sharing this recipe! It seems simple enough for a novice like me to masak!By the way for the sauce, does the blachan powder need to be dry roasted first?

  3. Hi BY,
    Jintan manis = Fennel seeds/powder
    Jintan puteh = cumin seeds/powder
    They are the names of spices for curry in Malay. You can get them at your favourite Indian store.

  4. Hi Joanna,
    We normally roast the blachan before use. Please be aware that the smell of blachan may permeate the whole house for days.So Keep the window opened and kitchen well ventilated.

  5. I think you can have a 2nd career as an illustrator :)

  6. Hi HW,
    Manah boleh.. cannot give up my day job lah. Nanti tan bo chiak..:0
    They use the computer to draw these days .. and I'm still learning how to use my PC.. haha

  7. "Seek & ye shalt find." Well, my cookbooks are still in mover's boxes & 2 weeks ago I did "guesswork" satay for potluck - terok lah. OK for the mat-sallehs (they loved it) but not shiok enough for me & hubby.

    I will now use your recipe for a special guest. A 72yo US retired doc., born in Kuching to missionaries, lived 20yrs in Spore, studied in Upper Serangoon Sec. Sch., loves durian, still speaks baba-Malay & kitchen Hokien, soon to be my gardening guru & P/T kampong doc.

    Thank you. Next time mesti check here 1st instead of guessing :) Your sketch looks like the pak-chiks next to Alambra. How about giving online sketch lessons?

  8. Hi Vin,
    Thanks for retrieving my memory. I couldn't remember the name Alambra for the cinema theater in Beach Road until now. Wow, isn't that wonderful for old Doc to find you. I am sure he will enjoy your friendship. It is handy to have a Kampong doc :0 My son was asking why I have included a parang in the sketch. I hope I am not stereo typing. Take a closer look at his footwear. I was trying to capture the Malay footwear during that period.


  9. hi uncle phil,i stumble upon your site while searching for a traditional satay recipes .i find your recipes to be the most special and different from others.i will be trying your recipes for our hari raya house warming.wish me luck .thanx.may you be in good health,happiness and blessed .

  10. Thanks for visiting. I glad you like our recipes and hope that you support us in our endeavour to collect traditional family recipes for other to share. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to you and your loved ones.

    1. Uncle Phil ... this is a photo of a satay make shift stall which is self explanatory. The place was at Alhambra Theatre at Beach Road. I hope you can see this old 1948 photo.