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Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Indonesian Satay

Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Indonesian Satay

Monika Febriana
25 June 2023


Explore the tantalizing world of Indonesian satay, a culinary masterpiece that embodies the country's diverse flavors.


Explore the tantalizing world of Indonesian satay, a culinary masterpiece that embodies the country’s diverse flavors. 

Indonesia’s culinary scene is renowned for its incredible diversity and flavors. Among the myriad of meat-based dishes, satay stands out as a true favorite. Just the mention of satay evokes images of succulent meat skewers, expertly grilled and accompanied by delectable sauces. It comes as no surprise that satay has captured the hearts and palates of many, including myself.

Indonesia is renowned for its rich culinary heritage, and one dish that truly exemplifies the diversity of flavors is satay. This delectable food, made from meat skewered on bamboo sticks, takes on different forms across the many regions of Indonesia. Each region has its unique twist on this beloved dish, whether it’s the distinct peanut sauce or the addition of sweet soy sauce. Furthermore, the preparation and presentation of satay vary, showcasing the culinary traditions and cultural nuances of each region. 

History of Satay

The history of satay has many versions, one of which claims that this food first appeared in the 15th century. Satay is a food inspired by kebabs, which are skewered and burned goat meat processed by traders from the Middle East. At that time, Indonesians had only been boiling meat, so satay was created as we know it today by skewering and burning it instead.

Satay derives its name from the Tamil Indian language, Catai, which means meat. By adapting to the local language, catai evolved into satay or sate in Bahasa.

Various kInds of Satay

According to research conducted by Gajah Mada University (UGM), there are 252 types of satay in Indonesia, of which 175 have known the origin, and 77 are unknown. Here is a list of some of the more popular satay in Indonesia:

Satay Buntel

Sate Buntel (Lamb in Caul Fat Satay) originates from Solo, Central Java. It’s different from other satays that are made with chunks of meat: Sate Buntel is made with minced goat meat, wrapped in caul fat, and then skewered. When grilled, the caul fat prevents the meat from falling apart.

The satay is made from young goat meat, which adds to its delicacy. Its meat has a softer texture and does not smell like other satay goat meat. This satay is served with onions, tomatoes, rujak-style pickles, shallots, chili peppers, and sweet soy sauce.

Satay Klatak

Like Sate Buntel, Sate Klatak also uses goat meat. This satay from Yogyakarta is made from goat meat and not minced. Rather than using wooden skewers, this satay uses iron skewers to ensure that the meat will be perfectly cooked.

Even though it is usually served without peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce, Sate Klatak has a distinctive savory flavor from the process of grilling and cutting goat meat. However, some places serve it with curry sauce. 

Satay Lilit

Balinese food Satay Lilit is famous for its unique shape that is different from the others. In the past, this food was made only from pork or seafood. To accommodate tourists who can’t eat pork, nowadays you can easily find Sate Lilit made from beef or chicken. 

The minced meat is combined with seasonings and spices such as shallots, garlic, lemongrass, lime leaves, and others to form a dough. It is then wrapped around a bamboo or lemongrass skewer and grilled. Sate Lilit is typically enjoyed without any sauce as the satay itself is flavorful.

Satay Madura

You can easily find Satay Madura, from street vendors to well-known restaurants. This delectable dish originates from Madura, East Java, and is prepared using chicken or mutton. The meat is carefully cut and skewered before being grilled.

There are two types of sauces commonly served with Satay Madura. Peanut sauce is typically paired with chicken satay, while goat meat satay is accompanied by sambal and sweet soy sauce—a flavorful blend of sweetened soy sauce, palm sugar, garlic, and salt. Satay Madura is commonly served with lontong, which are rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves.

Satay Maranggi

Sate Maranggi is one of the delicate meat-based dishes from Purwakarta, West Java. The satay is made from diced mutton or beef, which has a size of about one centimeter. There are usually three pieces of meat on each skewer.

The meat is marinated in a flavorful blend of sweet soy sauce and spices before being grilled, resulting in a savory taste. Thus this satay is typically enjoyed without additional sauce to allow the delicious flavors of the marinade to shine through.

Satay Padang

Padang is one of the cities in Indonesia which is famous for having a variety of flavorful food. Besides rendang, Satay Padang is also a beef-based dish that is no less delicious. This satay is made from pieces of beef, beef tongue, intestines, lungs, and beef heart.

The distinctive feature of this food lies in the thick sauce that is poured over it. The sauce has a deep brown color usually made from beef broth, a combination of various spices, and rice flour or rice water to thicken.

There is a difference in the color of the sauce from Satay Padang Pariaman, Satay Padang Panjang, and Satay Padang Kota. The Panjang version has a yellow sauce color because it has more spices, the Pariaman version has a redder color because it uses more chilies, and the Kota or city version has a brownish color. Despite their differences, these three foods still taste palatable.

Satay Rembiga

West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) is known as one of the largest cattle breeding areas in Indonesia. The typical cattle of this area are famous for having more sweet and juicy meat than in other regions. One of the famous beef-based dishes in NTB is Satay Rembiga.

Sate Rembiga is prepared by slicing beef and pounding it to enhance its tenderness. The meat is then marinated in a blend of spices for two hours to infuse the flavors before being grilled. Typically, this satay is served without additional condiments or sauce, allowing the natural flavors to shine. Moreover, Satay Rembiga pairs exceptionally well with lontong (rice cake), adding to its delightful taste.

Satay Taichan

For those of you who live in Jakarta, you may often find Sate Taichan traders on the side of the road and are popular among young people. The popularity of this satay continues to spread to all regions in Indonesia.

This satay, originally from Jakarta, is made from grilled chicken pieces without seasoning. Uniquely, this satay is not served using spices or sauce but is served only with salt, sambal, and only grated lime. There are also traders who use a tempting sprinkled mushroom seasoning.

The satay types listed here are just a tiny part of what Indonesia has to offer, there are many more delicious satays across the country. Which one of these is your favorite?

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