Chicken satay without peanuts. I couldn’t believe it myself having associated satay with peanut butter. But this recipe from Vietnamese Cooking Made Easy (recipes by Nongkran Daks, Alexandra Greeley, and Wendy Hutton; published by Periplus) is peanut-free. It is light and succulent, delicate with just the right hints of complementing flavors. Served with nuoc cham, the Vietnamese sweet and sour dipping sauce, it satisfies the craving for barbecue without the grease and the fat. If you marinate the chicken and make the nuoc cham in the morning, grilling takes less than fifteen minutes so dinner is ready in no time at all. We had these grilled chicken satay for dinner last night along with the Korean noodle dish called japchae, more popularly known in the Philippines as chapchee.
Note that I deviated a bit from the proportion of the seasonings given in the original recipe. I found the marinade a bit bland and made some adjustments. Cut off the stem of the chili, slit lengthwise and scrape off the seeds and chop. Leave the seeds on if you prefer a spicier satay.
Bruise the lemongrass by pounding the stalks a few times with a pestle or the side of a cleaver. Chop. Place the chili, garlic, onion, lemongrass, and liquid seasonings in a blender and process until pasty. If you don’t have a blender, finely chop the solid ingredients, transfer to a mortar, pound, and grind with a pestle until mushy then mix with the liquid ingredients. Stir in the freshly ground pepper.
Pour the marinade over the chicken, and mix with your hand preferably working the marinade into the meat. Cover the bowl, place in the fridge, and let the chicken marinate for several hours or overnight. Thread four to five pieces of chicken per skewer. Grill for about five minutes per side. Serve with nuoc cham.