From satay sticks to seafood in banana leaves to rojak, and refreshing salads, you can easily create a barbecue or Singapore themed feast using the flavours and ingredients of local favourite foods.
Satay is always a hit so marinade some lamb, beef, pork and chicken with local Malay satay spices.
You can have some meat in pieces and thread them through bamboo sticks or keep pieces such as chicken wings whole. The important step is the marinade which have to work on the meat for at least 4 hours. Even sausages would be fantastic with satay marinade. It is important to soak the sticks for at least an hour so they do not burn.
To go with the satay kebabs or meat pieces, a good dipping sauce is essential. The basic satay sauce requires peanut, tamarind paste, palm sugar and a host of spices and herbs. To keep the flavour of the meat the star of the show do not make it too spicy or sweet. There must be a balance.
For meat, you want juicy, medium-cooked beef and lamb. All meat has to rest first. So before the meat reaches its desired doneness take it off the grill and set it aside to rest before serving.
How do you get juicy, moist meat on a barbecue grill? The secret is in the marinade. For beef, lamb, pork and chicken breasts, pound it first with a meat hammer to tenderise, then marinade with peanut oil, sauces, spices, herbs and sugar.
Yes, sugar. The sugar is the secret behind the appetising blackened char on meats. It is black and beautiful outside, as well as perfect and juicy inside. The oil moisturises the meat for a juicy, tender interior. Marinade the meat with this combination for at least four hours.
TIP: To save cooking time on the barbecue, grill your meat in the oven or microwave first. Yes, microwave. With today’s technology the microwave can grill food, and brown meat to produce a crispy, browned texture. Teka’s microwave grill technology ovens, for example, work when the grill plate or rack provided with the oven interacts when the ‘Crispy Grill’ function is turned on. Instead of penetrating the plate, the microwaves heat the surface of the plate to a temperature hot enough to sear meat.
Fresh seafood is a must whatever dish you’re creating. Use banana leaves to wrap prawns, fish, cuttlefish and clams. Get some lobster to add a touch of class. Never over cook seafood. A famous Singapore seafood dish is sambal stingray in banana leaf so give this a try. Grill the fish over the charcoal first to give it a nice char before transferring it to the banana leaf. Passing a raw banana leaf over heat or flames makes it more pliable and easy to fold.
The marinade must be light because seafood is delicate and we want the freshness to stand out. Again, balance is key. Cuttlefish takes seconds before it becomes tough. Prawns only need a little garlic, lime and a tiny amount of fresh chilli paste to shine. As soon as the prawns turn from grey to pink take it out and serve as the residual heat continues to cook them.
TIP: To prevent your precious seafood from overcooking on the barbecue, steam it first. Then give it a quick char over charcoal. This not only locks juices in but also prevents rubbery, powdery unpleasant, overcooked seafood. The Teka Compact and Steam Ovens HK series do a fine job at both steaming and conventional oven use.
Vegetables and Salad
Potato, sweet potato and corn are favourite barbecue vegetables. To save time, pre-steam or pre-boil these first before finishing them off on the grill.
A refreshing salad is ideal for any barbecue. For a local style coleslaw use yoghurt mixed with pineapple or mango pulp instead of mayonnaise. In a vinaigrette, you can add a little hekor (shrimp paste), lime, cincalok (fermented krill), dried prawn or peanut sauce (peanut butter). Toss in local herbs like coriander and ginger torch, and local fruit such as guava, green papaya, starfruit and jambu ayer.
TIP: Steaming potato, corn and sweet potato in Teka’s Microwave or Teka’s Steam Function Oven cuts down barbecue time. This is vital when there is a sizeable crowd and you don’t want to be sweating away at the grill when you should be mingling with your guests.
1. Start with a clean grill. Removing old ashes ensures good air circulation, and cleaning away any old cooked bits of food results in better flavour and quality.
2. Be sure to wash everything after handling raw meat. Don’t use the same plate for the cooked meat that you used for the uncooked meat unless you’ve washed it in between.
3. Brush grill with cooking oil to prevent food from sticking. Other high smoking point oils include grapeseed oil, olive oil, peanut oil and vegetable oil.
4. If the basting sauce contains oil, however, do not grease the grill; too much oil causes flare-ups.
5. Prepare the fire 30 minutes or more before grilling. For quick lighting, use a chimney starter with crumpled newspaper in the bottom and charcoal above. Charcoal is ready for cooking when it’s 80 percent ashy grey in daylight, glowing red at night. This usually takes about 25 to 30 minutes.
6. Toss in a handful of coconut charcoal (available at Cold Storage) and lemongrass. It will create a new dimension of local flavours.
7. Soak wooden skewers for an hour before using to prevent burning.
9. Use tongs to turn your food on the grill which will leave more flavour in the meat. Using a fork to pierce and turn the meat results in a lot of meat juices being lost and a greater possibility of overcooking.
10. A marinade is a highly seasoned liquid mixture used to add flavour and, in some cases, tenderise meat. A flavouring marinade enhances the flavour of meat in approximately 15 minutes to 2 hours, while a tenderising marinade requires at least 6 hours to affect the quality of the meat. The tenderising marinade makes leaner cuts of meat more tender and juicy. Enzymes in the marinade that tenderize the meat can come from acidic foods like citrus juice, yoghurt, wine and vinegar, or natural enzymes found in fresh papaya, ginger, pineapple and figs.
Chicken Wing Satay with Peanut Sauce
1kg chicken wings, washed
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for about 2 hours
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 stalks lemon grass, roughly chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 cm galangal, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 lime, juice only
Salt to taste
1 tbsp gula melaka
2 tbsp brown sugar sugar
5 tbsp oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
Satay peanut sauce:
1 tbsp tamarind pulp, mixed with warm water to form paste
1 cup toasted no-skin peanuts, roughly chopped
1 cup toasted no-skin peanuts, finely ground
4 shallots, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup water, to adjust
2 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 cm galangal, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh chilli paste
4 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp gula melaka, roughly chopped
3 tbsp brown sugar
salt to taste
For the chicken marinade – over low heat dry fry the coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric powder till fragrant. Blend together with the onion, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal. Mix this paste with the oil, sugars, fish sauce, lime juice and salt and massage into the chicken wings. Set aside for at least 5 hours or overnight.
For the peanut sauce – in a pot, put in the peanuts and tamarind juice, and add water to cover the peanuts by 2 cm. Bring to boil then cover the pot and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile blend the lemongrass, chilli paste, shallots, garlic and galangal, and fry this paste in oil till fragrant, about 15 minutes. Mix in this fried spice paste to the simmering peanut mixture together with the sugars and salt, and bring back boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add water if it thickens too much. Pour into a serving bowl to cool.
To barbecue the chicken you can either skewer them with bamboo sticks or leave them as is to eat with your fingers. Use a lemongrass as a brush and baste the chicken wings with oil often while grilling. Serve with the peanut sauce, cut cucumbers, onion and ketupat.