Skip to content

Satay and ketupat with a hint of gold

December 12, 2007

Two pieces of chicken satay and another two meat satay with wrapped and unwrap ketupat. And what’s that butter cookie doing there? 

Satay is one of Brunei’s delicacies. It is barbecued beef or chicken meat, skewed, for easy handling and cooking, in sharp-edge bamboo sticks. The dish is well-known throughout South-East Asia.

Satay, or meat-on-a-stick, originated in Indonesia.It iw now well-known in the West and almost all local restaurants will have some variation of satay on their menus.

Some people believe the word ‘satay’ to be of Tamil origin but it is more likely a corruption of the English word ‘steak’, because Asians tend to have trouble pronouncing consonants together, particularly the letters ‘s’ and ‘t’. Because it is a phonetic spelling, you will also commonly see this dish written as ‘sate’ or ‘satae’.

How to prepare Satay?

Chicken meat or beef are cut into finger-length pieces and marinated, usually over-night, with herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander and black pepper and mixed with seasoning. When they are ready to be cooked, the pieces are put into wooden skewers and barbecued or grilled until golden brown. Tourists might be familiar with the smoke coming from the barbecue cause by the use of coal to cook satay.

Apart from chicken or beef, enterprising satay-sellers venture out with farmed ostrich (nice!), prawn (not a seafood fan here) and even rabbits; yes those flurry, hopping bunnies (couldn’t stand the thought of eating these cuties). There is even a vegetarian version – tofu sliced into strips. Yes tofus are not as solid as its meat counterpart so to firm tofus, freeze solid them then thaw in the fridge, marinate and grill them. Prices also differ accordingly.

Satay would taste even better with a peanut sauce. The trick to a perfect peanut sauce is just by looking at its appearance – not too oily and the color of thick brown. Also if the seller allowed you to spoon the sauce, it should not be too sticky. Another food that usually accompanied satay is the ketupat or stuffed-steamed rice which you may also dipped in to the peanut sauce.

So, as I was enjoying my satay and ketupat (along with that butter cookie in the pic), I noticed that some of the children around me left small pieces in the ketupat wraps. I asked if they would be interested to hear a Brunei’s folklore on ketupat, which I myself heard from my late father. ‘Mauuuuu…. (yessssss)’ they all yelled. The story goes like this:

The story of ketupat with a heap of gold.

Many centuries ago, most Bruneians worked as fishermen and it was normal for these seafarers to bring along food as they stayed all day long at the sea.

One fisherman brought with him some of those ketupat with him. He didn’t finish his ketupat so he just threw them away to the water. The ketupat felt sad with this act because it thought that, here it was, fulfilling a man’s hunger and yet it was just thrown away, wasted.

So, as the ketupat was drifting with the tide by the Brunei Bay, it noticed a glow of yellow in the distance. As it came nearer, the ketupat asked the glow on what it is.

Ketupat: ‘Hello Glow. If I may ask, who are you?’

Glow: ‘Oh hello there. Yes, I am a heap of gold and I am on the way to bring richness to this country.’

Ketupat: ‘Oh, is that so? You are gold and you want to bring richness. Just look at me. I am a kind of food that fills the countryman’s tummy and yet I am being thrown away, wasted. What good would it bring if you are to give richness there and yet the people waste their food?’

Glow (which you know now is gold): ‘Hmmm…. You are right. In that case, I will go to another country where the people appreciate what has been given to them.’

The end.

So, I turned to the children and asked what was the morale of the story. Some witty answers:

  • Don’t talk to strangers, especially those who said they are gold!
  • Ketupat is a geek and don’t have friends!
  • I don’t know that food can talk. I thought I am the one with a mouth.
  • What was Ketupat so sad about again? It should be happy that the fisherman didn’t eat it.
  • Yeah, the ketupat is free so now it can go anywhere it wanted to – to the cinema, arcade game, The Mall… anywhere except the fisherman’s tummy.


P/s. actually the story taught us not to waste food. Also, Islam teaches us that those who waste things are a friend of the Satan. Nau’zubillahi…

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2007 10:13 am

    Nice post on my favourite food. 🙂

    I really don’t know what’s the staple food in Brunei. Was there only once and went around the town area looking for one but most look the same as in my own country; except those ‘dwarf’ durians.

    Finally had to settle for hokkien mee at a food court near Jerudong Park in the evening.

  2. December 12, 2007 4:37 pm

    I lurve ketupat too but must be with that peanut sauce. I also like Ambuyat. Ambuyat used to be the staple food of Brunei during the World War, so I was told by my late grandma, as food was scarce at that time. Rice is the staple food of Brunei, Cadillac.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    January 21, 2008 12:15 pm

    Interesting. Satay is well-known in the west too but not that ketupat.

  4. kepalahotakbejambul permalink
    May 1, 2008 6:54 am

    waaa satay!!! windu satay kambing & ostrich too.. las tym i tried d satay here (not in brunei) nyaman wohh, taste mcm irup2an for post-natal hehe but tat’s to me natau org lain aah. i liked their peanut sos thou n nasinya pure thai’s fragrant rice..ummm..

    jadinya..ostrich,ayam,kambing,udang atu nda kiut? (^^)v

  5. February 14, 2009 9:05 am

    Satay means “3 pieces” in Hainanese or Hokkien, ie.-3 pieces of meat on a skewer

    • Brunei Lifestyler permalink
      February 15, 2009 11:55 am

      Interesting Tulan Tong. Thanks for sharing. Maybe thats where the word came from?

      • Brunei Lifestyler permalink
        February 20, 2009 10:46 am

        For everyone’s info, Brunei is trying to set the world’s longest satay grilled this Monday, 23 Feb 2009 in conjunction with the country’s National Day. Hopefully the effort will be recognised by the Guiness Book of world record. I will update the result that Monday, insya Allah.

  6. fadila permalink
    December 17, 2009 6:25 pm


    Interesting post… I need help. I am actually looking for stories of Brunei Folklore (for children). It was kinda hard to search for it and I stumbled upon yours. It would be cool if you are able to share more!

    • Eva Wanda permalink
      January 24, 2010 7:50 pm

      Tq for the support fadila. I will try to post as much as Ican, wateva comes to my mind but I do know a couple…


  1. National Day and satay talk « Brunei Lifestyle
  2. Satay and ketupat with a hint of gold « Brunei Lifestyle | Brunei Today

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: