Satay and ketupat with a hint of gold
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.’
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…