In Pahang, satay is a popular dish especially during traditional Malay festivals such as Aidil Fitri and Aidil Adha and also during traditional Malay weddings and family events and occasions, like birthday parties and get-togethers.
Being a popular Malay delicacy, it can also be found throughout every state in the country.
However, except during festivals and celebrations, on normal days these grilled meats are usually eaten at night for dinner or supper, and that is why stalls selling them start to open only in the evening, and not in the morning.
Ahh, me and my thoughts of food! Just thinking of those yummy sticks makes me salivate! Looks like I need to go out and buy some for dinner tonight!
Well, sometimes spelled as "sate", it is actually small chunks or slices of meat that is poked into a skewer or lidi (Malay for the spine or rib of coconut leaves, although sometimes it is made from thin sticks of bamboo), and burned or grilled over charcoal or wood fire.
It is quite similar to the kebabs of the Arabs although sate slices are a little smaller, and the sauce or gravy is perhaps thoroughly Malay in taste, rather sweet and spicy.
It is said that this luxurious snack invented by the Malays was influenced by the cuisines of the Arabs who came in the early 19th Century as immigrants to the region.
That perhaps also explain the reason why the meats popularly used by the Malays like chicken, beef, lamb and also mutton, are also traditionally favored by the Arabs.
In the state of Pahang, besides the restaurants that serve satay as part of their culinary offerings, one can also find hawkers selling them at food-courts and also at the night markets or "pasar malam" and week-end markets (pasar minggu).
In the smaller towns one can also sometimes find vendors traveling on a bicycle or motorcycle going round the residential areas. He will stop and burn the satay when a there are orders from a household.
Nowadays, during celebrations and also parties, they are usually burned and grilled at the event location, as eating them warm and freshly grilled give a delightfully better taste.
Meats commonly used for the making of this delightful dish include beef, chicken, mutton or lamb, liver, chicken gizzards and even cow’s intestines.
You may find more exotic meats, such as rabbit or venison, especially in restaurants, although they are rather rare and mostly available through advanced orders.
Before cooking, the meat is actually marinated for a few hours with turmeric and other spices (depending on the recipe) giving it a characteristic yellow color, and a little spicy taste.
Once the marinated meat has been poked into the skewers, then they are cooked by grilling or burning them over charcoal or firewood. That’s the traditional way, but nowadays, burners using gas are also used, but most people I know still prefer the taste of charcoal-burned satay!
Also you will find in Pahang that the seller will use an old-fashioned straw hand-fan to stoke the coals or fire when burning them, although electric fans are commonly used now to stoke the charcoals to cook them faster, especially at stalls with huge crowds.
What makes satay delicious is the sauce or gravy it is eaten with. It is served with a peanut dip, or peanut gravy, and usually customers are also offered slivers of big Indian onions and cucumbers.
Well, this "secret" was told to me by an old man from Terengganu (who has since passed away) whose satay was very popular in Kuantan many years back.
He divulged that onions usually make the eater feels somewhat hungry and unfilling, and so he/she will want to eat a lot of the skewered meat. A normal sized person can usually take about 10-20 sticks of the tasty meat before he /she feels satiated.
So, eat a slice of the onions served whenever you feel you have eaten enough already, and you will then start to eat again!
Actually what makes these grilled meat really delicious is the gravy flavor. If the gravy is tasty, then most probably the dish is wonderful, otherwise it is just plain so-so.
I like my gravy to be thick with some chunky peanuts, although someone else may prefer it to be thick and smooth with the peanuts finely grounded. It’s really a personal preference.
But usually the gravy should taste nice if it is thick and brownish in color and not oily.
Sometimes, customers who prefer spicy foods are given the choice of spicy sambal (grounded chili sauce) to add to the gravy.
I would advise that you stay away from stalls that have thin gravy sauce as most probably water was added when they ran out of the gravy and is not enough for all the customers.
But this is rare as most experienced sellers will know how much gravy is needed for the day.
In Kuantan, there are many stalls and hawker courts selling this delicious dish, and they can be found sold not only in the town center but also at popular eating places and stalls at the nearby villages of Beserah or Tanjung Lumpur.
In Kuantan, perhaps the most popular restaurant is Satay Zul located at the entrance to Kuantan Garden near the traffic lights junction on the way to Teluk Chempedak.
It has a branch restaurant at one of the shops at the Malay Town near East Coast Mall. The restaurants are usually packed with customers, both eating-in and those placing and waiting for take-away orders.
In other towns of Pahang, like Temerloh, Bentong, Kuala Lipis, Jerantut, Raub, Pekan or Rompin, satay stalls can be found if you care to roam around town, but they are normally located at bus stations or near supermarkets and food-courts, or any place where there are night crowds.
But remember, the stalls are open mostly in the evening and night for dinner customers.
So, whenever you’re in Pahang, don’t forget to try and savor this very popular and delightful traditional Malay dish.
As always, from me ...