People assume Thai cuisine is complicated to prepare at home, but it's quite the opposite. Most Thai food is made of simple, fresh ingredients that can be thrown together in a jiffy, like stir-fries, fresh spring rolls, noodle salads, etc. The key to making great Thai at home is having your ingredients prepared correctly before you begin cooking them.
Thai satay skewers — marinated, skewered, grilled chicken or pork served with a zesty peanut dipping sauce — are a popular starter on Thai restaurant menus, and they're a breeze to whip up at home. It's easy to make a small batch for two or a large batch to feed a crowd if you're entertaining.
I prefer dark meat for its flavor, but boneless chicken breast can also be substituted. Coconut palm sugar is fantastic in the marinade — its deep, almost caramel-like flavor adds the perfect hint of sweetness — but you can also use brown sugar in its place. No grill? No problem. Cook the skewers under your oven's broiler.
Try this tasty Thai favorite this weekend but be warned: You may never want to order them for takeout again.
Thai Satay Skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes 6-8 appetizer servings
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into long, 1-inch wide strips
Wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 tablespoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown or coconut palm sugar
½ cup red curry paste
Mix garlic, ginger, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and curry paste in a large bowl, and whisk until combined and smooth. Alternately, you can also put everything in a blender to mix. Put the chicken in the marinade, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and let marinate for at least an hour to overnight.
When ready to cook, remove chicken from marinade and thread lengthwise onto the soaked skewers.
Grill: Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray or lightly oil grill, then place the skewers on the grill and let cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. The chicken should be firm when cooked and be browned in spots from the grill (don't let them sit too long on grill or the marinade will turn very dark).
Broil: Preheat oven to broil, place skewers on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet tray, and place tray a few inches under the broiler. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until meat is lightly browned and cooked through.
Serve skewers with peanut dipping sauce (recipe below).
Note: For a vegan version, substitute the chicken for 1 block of extra-firm tofu, cut into long strips and omit the fish sauce from the marinade.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons brown or coconut palm sugar (or more to taste)
A large pinch of chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup water (or more, if needed)
Pepper, to taste
Put everything in a blender and mix until smooth. Season with pepper, sugar and lime juice to taste. For a warm dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a small pot over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when it's warmed through — don't let it come to a simmer or overheat, or it will break (becoming gloppy, the oils separating from the solids).