The Best Beef Satés in Singapore

Satés in Singapore play the same role as hot dogs in New York, a popular, affordable, and democratic street snack enjoyed at all hours of the day and night by rich and poor and everyone in between. So to have your saté named the best in Singapore by The Straits Times (think The New York Times of Southeast Asia) is no small accomplishment, especially if you're an ang moh, foreigner in this case, an American: my stepson, Jake Klein. These satés were first served at the restaurant Wood, which featured Asia's first, and only, exclusively wood-burning kitchen (wood-burning grill, oven, smoker, and rotisserie). But even if you cook on a gas grill, the robust spicing of these satés will blast through loud and clear. For centuries Singapore and the Strait of Malacca were the epicenter of the Asian spice trade; the legacy lives on in these electrifying satés.

  • 1 1/2 pounds rib eye steaks (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Singapore Cucumber Relish (optional)
  • Fried Garlic Peanut Sauce (optional), for serving

You'll also need

  • 8-inch bamboo skewers; an aluminum foil grill shield

1. Cut the steaks, including the fat, into 1/2-inch cubes and place them in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, coriander, turmeric, cumin, pepper, fish sauce, and oil. Let the beef marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours; the longer it marinates, the richer the flavor will be.

2. Drain the cubes of beef, discarding the marinade. Thread the beef onto bamboo skewers, leaving the bottom half of each skewer bare for a handle and 1/2 inch exposed at the pointed end. The satés can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage. Refrigerate the satés, covered, until ready to grill.

3. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.

4. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the satés on the hot grate, with the aluminum foil shield under the exposed ends of the skewers to keep them from burning. Grill the satés until cooked to taste, 1 to 2 minutes per side for medium-rare, a little longer for medium. (In general, Southeast Asians prefer their satés medium to medium-well done.) Use the poke test to check for doneness.

5. Serve the satés with Singapore Cucumber Relish and Fried Garlic Peanut Sauce, if desired. The traditional way to eat the satés is to skewer a piece of cucumber on the pointed end of the skewer, then dip the saté in the peanut sauce.
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a light main course
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