Thursday, February 28, 2019

Crazy Rich Asian Chicken Satay

The February/March reading selection for the Cook the Books Club is Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, described by its publishers as "a fun, over-the-top romp through the unbelievable world of the Asian jet set, where anything from this season is already passe and one's pedigree is everything."

That pretty well describes it!  I found it to be a lot of fun and a lot flabbergasting (these are the rich people so rich that the rich people barely know they exist).

Into this world comes the main character, Rachel Chu - a Chinese American academic who discovers (as one does in wealth-fantasy novels) that her unassuming fellow-academic boyfriend just happens to be the son of one of the most crazy-rich families in Singapore.   She finds this out while on a plane to go meet his family and from there, hijinks ensue.

I enjoyed the book a lot and whipped my way through the entire trilogy shortly before the movie came out.  The intrigues and drama are the sort that clearly matter a lot to the characters involved, and for the most part were so far removed from my own life that the whole thing was just fun escapism.

Crazy Rich Asians (the movie) captures a lot of what happens in the book and keeps the frothy tone of it with a few significant modifications.  The biggest one is the way Akwafina's character takes on her sparkling over-the-top-ness, making her quite different from the book version, who is actually one of the most grounded secondary characters involved.

I liked both versions just fine, but don't read the book expecting to see the same character.

By luck, the movie is also this month's Food n' Flix choice, hosted by Eliot Eats (and typical of me, I'm getting this in right under the wire).

Seeing so many of my favorite actors (Constance Wu!  Michelle Yeoh! Lisa Lu!) and enjoying the beautiful sets and fun, not too challenging plot made for a really enjoyable movie night.

The recipe I was inspired to make was chicken satay.  This is what Rachel's boyfriend shares with her when they first land in Singapore, and she's still reeling a bit at the discovery of who he is.

Rather than whisk her off to a fancy restaurant, he takes her down to a popular outdoor street market area, where she meets a few of his friends and they introduce her to the best street food choices in Singapore - especially the Chicken Satay.

Now, I'm not even going  to try to claim mine is as good as theirs was described, but we really enjoyed it!  This version has a spicy peanut sauce to go with it - and I used some extra sauce to mix into some zucchini noodles sprinkled with peanuts.

The recipe I used is based on Milk Street's Singapore Chicken Satay, cooked in the oven rather than a grill.  Other than the time it takes to marinate the chicken, this made for an easy and simple dinner that would also be wonderful as a part of a buffet table.

Chicken Satay
serves 4

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" wide strips

2 Tblsp freshly grated ginger + 2 tsp. (reserve)
6 garlic cloves, finely minced + 1  clove (reserve)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tblsp oil
1 Tblsp sesame oil
2 Tblsp turmeric powder
1 Tblsp ground cumin
1 Tblsp salt

Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup boiling water
2 Tblsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tblsp sugar
2 Tblsp oil
reserved 2 tsp. grated ginger
reserved clove garlic, minced
2 Tblsp. chile garlic sauce
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts

Prepare the marinade:
Combine all and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add chicken and marinade for 2-3 hours in refrigerator. (Don't marinate any longer than that - it will get too salty.)

Prepare the sauce:
In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter and boiling water until smooth.  Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sugar, whisking to combine. Set aside.

In a small skillet, heat oil and add ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add the chile garlic sauce and turmeric, and cook another 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Whisk the garlic-ginger sauce into the bowl of peanut butter and soy.  Remove 1/4 cup for basting the chicken, and set aside the rest in the refrigerator for serving.  Let come to room temperature about 30 minutes before cooking the chicken, and stir in 1/4 cup of the peanuts.

Prepare the chicken:
Cover a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper, setting a wire rack on top of it.

Drain chicken in a colander in the sink.  Using wooden or metal skewers (I used wood but would have preferred metal), thread 2-3 pieces of the chicken onto the skewers, and set on the rack in the sheet pan.  Continue with remaining chicken, making sure not to crowd them on the rack.

Broil chicken for 5-7 minutes, then flip them and broil another 4-6 minutes.

Brush the chicken with half the sauce reserved for basting, and broil until nicely charred, another 2-4 minutes.  Then flip the chicken and brush with sauce again, then broiling for 2-4 minutes, until well charred.

Serve with peanut sauce.

To serve I made a cold zucchini noodle salad by spiralizing some zucchini and tossing it with part of the peanut sauce and sprinkled with chopped peanuts.  Delicious!

Check out the Food n' Flix Round Up to see the other delicious treats inspired by Crazy Rich Asians!


  1. Love this! I still might try to whip up some Satay for a separate CTB post. (It probably won't happen, though.) I saw the film before I read the book. The movie really helped me keep the characters straight in the novel. Thanks for getting this in! :)

  2. I love chicken satay. Your version looks great!

  3. Your satay looks perfect. I enjoyed both the book and the movie but you are right, the movie characters were lacking some depth that we found in the novel.

  4. The satay looks great. A random young woman in an Asian grocery store once told me her mother's recipe for peanut sauce: mix peanut butter with sriracha. That was it. So simple -- and it's good. You and all the others make me want to see the movie.

    best... mae at

    1. Whoa - that would totally do the trick! And easy peanut sauce is peanut sauce that happens often!

  5. so yummy, I love chicken satay but have not ever made it at home, no idea why as it looks easy enough. loved the movie too!

  6. This sound wonderful, we'll have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  7. what a great dish thanks for recipe while I have not ever made a dish like this it is something that I wish I had thanks for sharing
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  8. Your Asian Chicken Satay looks delicious and thanks so much for sharing them with us at Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  9. I do love a good Chicken Satay with peanut sauce. That was one of our favorite meals in Malaysia.

  10. This was one of the recipes I considered: I will come back to your recipe when I decide to make it. The peanut sauce sounds great :)

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