Chicken Satay and Pad Thai
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Two of my favorite Asian dishes are chicken satay and chicken pad Thai.
They’re certainly not foods that have hit the mainstream in home kitchens yet, but both are gaining popularity. The reason is two-fold: there are many more Asian restaurants with authentic fare, and ingredients for satay and pad Thai can be purchased, for the most part, at your local grocery.
Asian dishes, especially Thai, have umami components: sweet, salty, bitter, hot, and/or sour. This is the basic Eastern philosophy of “balance,” which allows flavors to meld together. Thai cuisine gives another meaning to the sense of taste!
Both satays and pad Thais use fresh, lively ingredients. Historically, refrigeration was not available; thus, the main reason the food is so fresh!
Jasmine rice is my choice for satays.
Rice noodles are my favorite in pad Thais.
I hope you enjoy my versions of these two cherished recipes.
A BIT OF HISTORY
So just what is “satay?” Satay is made with small pieces of marinated meat grilled on a skewer and is thought to have originated in Java.
In the early 19th century, Muslim Indian and Arab traders and immigrants traveled to Indonesia to trade textiles for herbs and spices. During this time, it’s believed that satays became popular in Indonesia. Street vendors started cooking them over open grills. The popularity of satays was born.
This Southeast Asian dish is considered a celebratory food and Indonesian national dish.
There are several versions of pad Thai’s history. One is that during World War ll, Thailand had a rice shortage. The prime minister wanted to establish a national identity to unite the nation through culture. They created a dish using Chinese noodles instead of rice. It was called pad Thai and became the national dish of Thailand.
The name “pad” in pad Thai means “fried.” My recipe uses a large sauté or wok. The ingredients are fried quickly in a film of hot oil.
CHICKEN SATAY KEBABS
Fish sauce is readily available in the international or Asian aisles of the grocery. It gives a depth of flavor to the satays.
We like to serve it with jasmine rice.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1½ lb. approx.) cut into 1” cubes
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup regular coconut milk (not sweetened cream of coconut milk)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 3 nice cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ to ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Coconut milk often has a layer of “cream” on top. Stir the coconut milk before measuring.
- Whisk peanut butter, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime zest, juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, curry, and crushed red pepper until well combined.
- Remove half of the marinade and reserve.
- Put the chicken in a bowl and pour half of the marinade over. Coat the pieces well. Marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is charred and cooked through. Serve with reserved sauce.
If you like a peanutty sauce to serve alongside, here’s an easy and delicious one:
Definitely a go-to taste kind of sauce. Place a small bowl next to the skewered satays for dipping or drizzling on.
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 generous tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- Grated ginger and lime juice to taste
- Water to thin if necessary
- Whisk everything but water together. Adjust seasonings and add a bit of water to thin sauce.
STEAMED JASMINE RICE
- 3 cups water or broth
- 1½ cups jasmine rice
- Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. That takes several rinses.
- Put the rice and water in a pot.
Cook over high heat, uncovered, until most of the water has been absorbed.
- Cover and reduce heat as low as possible.
- Steam until rice is done, about 15 minutes or so. You’ll know it’s done when a grain is soft enough to mash enough between thumb and forefinger.
- Fluff with a fork and serve.
Jasmine and Basmati rice: what’s the difference?
- Both are aromatic rice. And both are good in Asian dishes.
Basmati rice swells to two times bigger in size after cooking. The grains stay separated fairly well and cook up drier than Jasmine. They’ll retain their long, slender shape.
- Jasmine clumps together a bit after cooking and is moister than basmati. This makes it good for eating with chopsticks.
- You can pack jasmine rice into a bowl and unmold it. It will keep its shape.
CHICKEN PAD THAI
This is one recipe for which you need to go to taste on the seasonings. It seems like I always add a bit more soy and oyster sauce.
Rice noodles are chewy and somewhat transparent.
- 1 pkg. rice noodles
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 shallot, minced, or ½ small red onion, minced
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar or clear vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons tamari or regular soy sauce
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 4 green onions, sliced, white and green part both
- Couple handfuls bean sprouts
- ¾ cup chopped roasted peanuts plus extra for garnish
- Lime wedges
- Cilantro or Vietnamese coriander to taste
- 1 bunch broccoli, cut up and steamed (optional)
- Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Favorite hot sauce (optional)
- Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet or wok, add enough oil to coat the bottom nicely. Cook garlic, shallots, oyster sauce, and chicken until chicken is almost cooked.
- Scoot mixture to one half of the skillet, then stir in eggs, scrambling them as they cook.
- Mix all together.
- Add as many noodles as you like, fish sauce, vinegar, tamari, brown sugar, and green onions.
- Stir in sprouts and peanuts.
- If you have any vegetables on hand, they can be added.
Along with steamed broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, snow peas, or tomatoes are tasty.
- Stir in red pepper flakes and cilantro, then garnish with peanuts and squeeze of lime. Pass hot sauce.
- Sub shrimp for chicken.
- I used Vietnamese cilantro. It’s got a strong cilantro flavor and thrives in the heat.
Tamari vs. soy
- Both soy sauce and tamari are soy-based.
- Tamari, a Japanese form of sauce, contains little or no wheat, while regular soy sauce usually contains wheat.
- Tamari has a smoother flavor.
Originally published in the February/March 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.