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Recipes for grilled satay and dipping sauces

Start your summer grilling with Southeast Asian seasoned and skewered beef or chicken.

Grilled beef satay with peanut sauce and cucumber relish

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Grilled beef satay with peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

Satay are small skewers of grilled, spiced, or marinated meat that have become almost as popular here (just check the menu of your nearest Thai restaurant) as they are in Southeast Asia. They’re flavorful, easy, and fun — not a bad way to kick off the summer grilling season.

The flavoring, from a seasoning paste, marinade, basting sauce, or a combination, can differ depending on the cook and the region, but accompaniments of peanut sauce and cucumber relish seem to be pretty constant. Beef and chicken are fairly common, but lamb, pork, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables all get the treatment. Grill satay over plenty of heat so they cook through quickly without drying out and pick up some flavorful char from the grill.

GRILLED BEEF SATAY

Makes 12

Continue reading below

You’ll need a dozen 10- or 12-inch skewers; cheap bamboo is fine.

1 medium-large flank steak (about 1¾ pounds)

2 tablespoons neutral oil, plus extra for grill

3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1½ teaspoons ground turmeric

Pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

6 medium cloves garlic, grated (about 2 tablespoons)

Peanut sauce, for serving

Cucumber relish, for serving

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze the steak until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise and then bias-cut each half against the grain into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Thread 3 or 4 slices on each skewer, leaving an inch free at the bottom and not bunching the meat too tightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, coriander, turmeric, 1 teaspoon pepper, cumin, and garlic. Smear paste all over the skewered meat, return skewers to the baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours.

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, leave the burners on high and grill with the lid closed.) Clean and oil the grate and grill the skewers directly over the flame until the meat is cooked through and some edges are charred and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes over charcoal or 6 to 8 minutes over gas, turning once halfway through grilling. Serve at once with peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

GRILLED CHICKEN SATAY

Makes 12

Among widely available Thai-style curry pastes, the massaman type is the sweetest, red curry the hottest, and yellow curry somewhere in between.

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1¾ pounds), trimmed

1 tablespoon neutral oil, plus extra for grill

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons Thai-style curry paste, any type

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1½ tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground coriander

Pepper

Cut each chicken thigh in half lengthwise and thread 2 pieces onto each skewer, leaving an inch free at the bottom and not bunching the meat too tightly. Place the skewers in a large baking dish, in as close to a single layer as possible.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 tablespoon oil, coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, coriander, and 1 teaspoon pepper to dissolve sugar and blend. Pour the marinade over the meat, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours, turning the skewers over once midway through marinating. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. (If using gas, leave the burners on high and grill with the lid closed.) Clean and oil the grate, remove the skewers from the marinade, allowing excess to drip off, and grill directly over the flame, until the meat is cooked through and some edges are charred and crusty, 8 to 9 minutes over charcoal or 9 to 10 minutes over gas, turning once halfway through grilling time. Allow to rest for about 2 minutes and serve with peanut sauce and cucumber relish.

PEANUT SAUCE FOR SATAY

Makes about 2 cups

2 stalks lemongrass

2 medium shallots, chopped (about ½ cup)

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1½ teaspoons sriracha sauce

1½ tablespoons Asian

fish sauce

Salt

1 tablespoon neutral oil

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1½ tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup coconut milk

½ cup natural-style chunky peanut butter

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

½cup chopped peanuts

Pepper

Smash the lemongrass stalks, discard the outer layers, and very finely chop the white inner layers (you should have 3 tablespoons). In a mini chopper or food processor, process the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, sriracha, fish sauce, and ¼ teaspoon salt until pasty, about 45 seconds, stopping to scrape bowl as necessary.

In a medium nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1½ minutes. Add the turmeric, brown sugar, and coconut milk, and whisk to combine. Add the peanut butter, whisk to combine; adjust the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, to blend flavors and thicken to about the consistency of applesauce, about 5 minutes. Set aside off heat to cool to room temperature. Add the lime juice and ¼ cup tepid water and whisk to loosen the consistency to pourable. Add the cilantro, peanuts, and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with lime juice, salt, and pepper, and consistency with water if necessary, and serve with satay.

CUCUMBER RELISH FOR SATAY

Makes about 4 cups

2/3 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/8-inch dice (about 4 cups)

2 large shallots, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

1 large serrano chili, seeded if desired, minced

½ cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

½ cup chopped cilantro

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt to a bare simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt; simmer for 1 minute, still stirring, and set aside off heat to cool to room temperature.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, stir the cucumbers, shallots, chili, and vinegar mixture to mix. Cover and refrigerate to chill and blend flavors, at least 30 minutes. Add the peanuts and cilantro, stir to mix, and serve with satay.

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