Yummy Balinese satay!

Let us take a moment to appreciate the chunks of meat skewered on a stick and then grilled to perfection, satay. A beloved food across the island, satay is an obligatory dish served at gatherings. It’s also used a lot in offerings, especially during Galungan Day.

Satay refers to any grilled meat skewered on a stick. The typical Indonesian satay is made of meat chunks (usually goat or chicken) grilled over a fire and enjoyed with peanut sauce. But the Balinese have more variety with their satay.

In Bali, there are two major types of satay: tusuk (skewered) and lilit (twisted). Satay tusuk refers to the typical Indonesian satay. However, Balinese pork satay tusuk is often served with a hefty dose of red sambal rather than peanut sauce.

On the other hand, satay lilit is unique to Bali. To make satay lilit, the minced meat must be mixed with spices and the dough is then twisted around a flat bamboo stick. It takes time and skill to make satay lilit, as twisting the meat paste around the stick is much more complicated than it looks. If you do it wrong, the satay will fall apart when it’s grilled. There are also two types of satay lilitnyuh and gede. Satay lilit nyuh mixes shredded coconut into the meat paste. This adds the flavour of coconut to the meat and shortens the grilling time. It is often used with lean meats, like chicken and fish. Satay lilit gede features meat paste that is entirely meat. It is reserved exclusively for pork and takes way longer to cook, but the meat is still juicy. It’s a favourite for Galungan Day.

Speaking of Galungan, the day before Galungan is the day the Balinese make satay for the feast and also for offerings. It seems the gods also like satay, just like the Balinese!

While typical satay is made from chicken or goat meat, Balinese satay features many kinds of meat. Beef satay is not popular with Hindu Balinese. The most popular is, obviously, pork. In the second place, it’s chicken. Then, we have fish. Cuttlefish and squid are also made into satay in some restaurants, albeit only in the tusuk variant. Around two decades ago, the Balinese used to make sea turtle satay, which is banned now due to the endangered status of the sea turtle.

Satay is available almost anywhere, from street vendors to high-end restaurants. Just look for some smoke while walking, and if you see a person with a fan and grill, that’s where you can find satay.