Chicken Satay – inspired by Leo from my university days

This recipe is now my own. It borrows from Thai cuisine and it is very good, but I am not sure how authentic it really is. Essentially it is a peanut sauce made with red curry paste and coconut milk. It has that classic sweet, salty, spicy mix that is the very essence of Thai food, and the coconut milk tones it down a little. The origins of the sauce come from my university days, when Leo lived in halls with us. He was from Hong Kong, at the end of the 2nd week he offered to cook for the flat, the seven of us accepted. He cooked between 10-20 classic Chinese dishes and finished them with a flourish that included apples carved into swans. Not exactly student cuisine, but it was very good and he taught me a great deal. Always use chicken thighs for this recipe. They taste much better and they are cheaper.

Ideally, satay should be cooked on a barbecue, but for those of us for whom the weather is an impediment, then a griddle will do. I barbecue in any weather and the barbecue season is fairly extensive, from Pancake Day to Fireworks night. So given we are now on the 4th of November, this recipe will help to close the season.


20 Bamboo skewers

8 Chicken thighs (skinned and boneless)

1 tin of coconut milk

1 tsp cooking oil

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 inch of fresh ginger

4 Kaffir lime leaves (finely sliced into strips)

10 thai basil leaves

1 tbls of thai red curry paste

2 small packets of peanuts (our local shop sells the most amazing peanuts, G_Nutz, they are small, but they taste very different, wash the nuts first to get the salt off them, and then crush them with a rolling pin in the packet, much less mess this way)

2 tsp thai fish sauce

½ lime

2 tsp sugar (ideally palm but any white sugar will do)

¼ cucumber

½ onion

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar


First marinade the chicken. Cut the thighs into strips, finely shred the ginger. Put the chicken, ginger, half the lime leaves and turmeric in a bowl. Open the coconut milk, take out the cream, the thick rich bit and keep it in a bowl. Pour half the coconut milk onto the chicken. Stir well and marinade for 1 hour or more. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least half an hour before cooking, this stops them catching light. Put one tbsp of coconut cream in bowl and add the same amount of coconut milk. Mix well.

Now make the sauce.

Heat the oil, add the red curry paste and fry for 30 seconds. Add the coconut cream and heat until the sauce splits, you want to see the oil coming out of it. Add a little of the coconut water to thin the sauce a little. Add the fish sauce, lime leaves, 1tsp sugar and lime juice. Then add the peanuts, cook for 2 minutes. The sauce should be thick, taste it for salt and add a little if necessary. You are looking for flavour balance, add more lime juice if necessary. The sauce is done.

Make the accompaniments.

Half lengthways and cut the seeds from the cucumber.  Cut along the middle of both halves and then slide into half centimetre chunks. Pour over 1 tsp of vinegar and half a teaspoon of sugar. Mix well. Now chop the onion. Slice the onion in half, root to tip. Take off the root and the tip. Now cut it into thirds along the same line as the cut to cut off the root. You should have three large rings. Turn the onion 90 degrees and cut into four equally. You now have oriental dice. Again use the same amount of vinegar and sugar on the onion.

Cook the satay.

Skewer the chicken onto the bamboo, lengthways down the stick. Put it onto the barbecue (or griddle) and leave it for 3 minutes. Turn it over and cook for another 3 minutes. Using a pastry/food brush, get the bowl of coconut cream and milk and then brush the skewers with it to add flavour and moisture. Take off one skewer, cut the meat to check it is done. If it is, take them all off and you are ready to eat.


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