A love of barbecue.
If there’s one thing that’s universal about the human race it’s our love of barbecue. At Singapore hawker centres, this frequently takes the form of satay – bite-size morsels of grilled meat served with a peanut sauce so good you’ll be licking the bowl.
Most satay vendors offer a variety of meats and the usual options are chicken, beef and mutton. Since satay stalls in Singapore are usually Halal (suitable for Muslims to eat), pork satay is less common. Before cooking, the meat is cut into small pieces and marinated Southeast Asian herbs like lemongrass, ginger and turmeric. Once it has absorbed the flavours, the meat is speared onto bamboo skewers and cooked over an open fire. The result is meat that’s sweet and tender – even before dipping it in the peanut sauce.
The perfect satay sauce is sweet, spicy and completely addictive. Every satay vendor has their own secret recipe, but the ingredients always include roasted peanuts, palm sugar, oil and red chilli to give it some kick. The other traditional accompaniment to satay is rice cakes called ketupat. They’re often presented in a braided green wrapper of palm leaves which help compress the rice as it cooks.
Though satay is immensely popular in Singapore, the dish originated in Indonesia where it is usually written as sate. It can also be found at street stalls across Malaysia and Thailand. Since you can order as many (or as few) sticks as you like, satay works as a high-protein snack or as a complete meal and is one of the few hawker dishes that Western children used to a diet of hamburgers and pizza will probably like.
Proof of Singapore’s love of satay, a road next to Lau Pa Sat hawker centre is closed to traffic every night to create Satay Street. Here more than a dozen satay stalls compete for customers in the open air and bright lights of downtown Singapore. Satay Street is open from 19:00 until 03:00 on weekdays and 15:00 until 03:00 on weekends.
Other suggestions for where to sample Singapore’s best satay include the following:
Alhambra Padang Satay, Stall #01-15 at Makansutra Gluttons Bay
Fatman Satay, Stayy Stall #01-45 at Old Airport Road Food Centre
Rosaraihanna Soto & Satay, Stall #B1-19 at Golden Mile Food Centre
Tanya Procyshyn is a freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea.
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