Inspired by Paradise: How to Make the Perfect Satay

This summer I was in Bali. Apart from the island being beyond paradise, one of the things I looked forward to most was meal times. With a cuisine that is heavy-handed with sour, sweet and fiery flavors, getting hooked is the only option!

Balinese food is based on Bumbu, a spice foundation for most of their dishes. Bumbu is the grinding of ingredients that capture the local personality, such as coconut, lemongrass, candlenut and lots of fresh chili. Held hostage by these addictive flavors, I needed to know how to replicate these dishes back home. I muscled my way in to the St. Regis’s Executive Sous Chef Agung Gede’s kitchen and vegetable garden to learn about the food he and fellow Balinese cook at home.

Agung and Me cooking. Photo courtesy of Made Wartawan

He took me through two of Bali’s staples: Satay and Sambal.  What classics! Satays are skewered meats and have a presence at most meals whether you order them or not. Chef Agung showed me how to make seafood satay from flaky white fish and shrimp and its characteristic base of pounded lemongrass, lime leaves, turmeric and coconut milk. The skewers were then grilled off over hot coal (Chef Agung blessed me to go ahead and broil them in the oven or sauté on high heat). The satay was superbly moist with flavors of those pounded yummies marching sharply forward .

Satay and Seafood Sausage. Photo courtesy of Made Wartawan

Like any Balinese meal, no dish would be complete without Sambal. This dish will give your taste buds a work out as sliced onions and garlic are dressed in bruised- red chili-lime juice and other snappy ingredients. There is a little palm sugar in this dish (that can be substituted with light brown sugar) to provide momentary rescue from that fiery snap.

Sambal. Photo courtesy of Made Wartawan

Adapted From Chef Augung Gede’s Recipes


Base used for Sate ‘Bumbu’

5 ounces garlic, sliced

1 large shallot, sliced

3 ounces ginger, roughly chopped

4 ounces galangal, finely chopped

1/2 ounce turmeric, finely chopped

1 ounce candle nut, chopped (if unavailable, used macadamia)

1 red chili, finely chopped

2 teaspoons shrimp paste

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

315 ml cooking oil

1 teaspoon salt


1. Process all ingredients except oil and salt in a blender with enough water to cover ingredients.

2. Heat oil in a wok or heavy pan, add all ingredients. Cook and stir frequently for 15 to 20 minutes until the marinade turns golden and the liquid evaporates. Cool before using.



1 pound fresh, light, white fish (snapper), ground (your seafood counter can do the grinding for you)

½ pound prawns, ground (your seafood counter can grinding for you)

4 ounces grated coconut

1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped

1-tablespoon ginger finely chopped

1 red fresh chili, finely chopped

1 tsp. brown sugar or palm sugar (available at local Asian/ Thai grocery store)

2 tablespoons coconut milk

½ teaspoon of shrimp paste (available at local Asian/ Thai grocery store)


1. Combine the shallots, garlic, ginger, chili, grated coconut, palm sugar, coconut milk, lime leaves, shrimp paste, lime juice and salt.

2. Then, add the minced seafood and base genep and mix well.

3. Form the mixture into a sausage link shape around a skewer and cook on a well-oiled pan until crisp and golden or in the oven at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Bumbu mix, courtesy of Made Wadawan



2 fresh red chilies, finely sliced

1 lime, Juice and some membranes

4 shallots, finely sliced


1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped

1 teaspoon shrimp paste, pan roasted

½ teaspoon salt


Combine all salad ingredients with the squeezed lime to bruise in the essential oils from the lime zest.

Saira Malhotra, is of British–Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: where she shares approachable and international recipes

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