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Thai Chicken Sates

Thai chicken sates are a popular food in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The tiny kebabs have been adopted by Thais alongside their passion for spice; along the way they changed from sweet soy-based marinade to fish sauce so prized among Malaysians or Indonesians – I like serving them how you would typically eat these Southeast Asia style wrapped into lettuce leaves.

A traditional saté (or sai thau) dish originates from Vietnam but was first introduced during colonial times when French colonizers exchanged goods with local cultures including this one about meat substitutes made out of vegetables such as bamboo shoots which can be grilled until tender then dipped in peanut sauce.


  • 20 minutes to 2 hours for marinating the chicken


  • 16 long bamboo skewers and an aluminum foil shield
  • Grill setup for direct grilling


  • 1-pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey or sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Thai Peanut Sauce
  • 1 head lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed, and trimmed


  1. Start by rinsing the chicken breasts under cold water and then patting them dry using paper towels. To get the most tender and juicy breasts, cut them lengthwise (with grain) into 16 pieces. Each piece should be about 4 inches long, 1/2 inch wide and just over 1/4th thick so they can cook evenly.
  2. Mix the coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice, honey, garlic, and turmeric in a medium-size nonreactive bowl, use a whisk to blend. Coat the chicken with the marinade and toss to ensure even coverage and refrigerate for 20 minutes to 2 hours.
  3. Place the chicken strips in a container and pour away any excess marinade. Thread each piece of meat onto a skewer so that they are parallel to one another.
  4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
  5. When ready to cook, make sure you have oiled and grilled your grates. Arrange the sates on hot surface with aluminum foil shields under the end of each skewer so that they do burn while cooking. Grill until lightly browned, turning with tongs 1-3 minutes per side (2 to 6 minutes in total)
  6. Place state on a plate, then serve with peanut sauce in dipping bowls. To eat, take a lettuce leaf and put your desired amount (about 2-3 tablespoons) of the chicken onto it; roll up into an easy to manage package before eating!


The peanut sauce is the traditional accompaniment to Southeast Asian satés. There are probably as many individual recipes for this delicious dish, but you’ll find it at its most basic form -no doubt with coconut milk added-on some Thai street vendors’ stalls too!


    • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 to 2 Thai chiles or serrano or Jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and minced
    • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
    • 1/3 cup coconut milk,
    • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce, or more to taste
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more to taste
    • 2 teaspoons sugar, or more to taste
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)



    1. In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to mix well then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until richly flavorful- about 5 minutes or so! When ready to serve add more coconut milk if desired for the perfect consistency (I like mine pretty thick). Makes 1 cup total.
    2. Remove the sauce from heat and taste for seasoning. adding more fish sauce, lime juice or sugar as necessary: The peanut sauce should be highly seasoned! Serve it warm but not too hot. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator covered for up to 3 days.


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