How They Grill Lamb in Southeast Asia

Credit: Courtesy S. Zainab Williams

The grill master title is an honor and a curse. Chained next to the fire, taunted by the fragrant smoke of summer's finest, what's a multitasking barbecue host to do when hunger strikes? Skewer it.

As anyone who's visited Southeast Asia will know, satay is the tender, flavor-packed meat-on-a-stick alternative to half-charred, half-raw bell peppers and tough chunks of grilled beef. Take it from Bryant Ng, who recently opened Los Angeles' pan-Asian brasserie Cassia as its executive chef, collaborating with his wife, Kim Luu-Ng, and restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan.


"I love satays because they remind me of my childhood visits to Singapore where the smell of the satays cooking brings back some of my favorite taste memories," said Ng who has a Chinese-Singaporean background. "Plus, they're tasty and I love eating with my hands," he added.

While you're more likely to find beef, chicken, and lamb satays outside of Asia, Ng's first restaurant, The Spice Table, was known to serve lamb belly and sweetbread versions. As versatile as they are convenient, what makes these skewers special is the intense punch of spice ubiquitous in the region's cuisine and the fact that you can eat twenty in one sitting.

When preparing satays for your next barbecue, be sure to take a tip from Ng. "Cut the meat into smaller pieces — about one inch," said Ng. "By cutting the meat smaller, you have more surface area in contact with the heat, creating more caramelization and smoky char."

Enjoy a Tiger Beer with your satays and save the bell pepper for salad.

Lamb Satay (Contributed by Bryant Ng)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lamb belly (or lamb loin, cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • salt (1 tsp per pound of meat)
  • skewers, wooden 

Paste/Marinade

  • 1 tbsp cumin seed (ground)
  • ½ tbsp coriander (ground)
  • 1 tbsp white pepper (ground)
  • 1 tsp turmeric (ground)
  • 1 tbsp tamarind water
  • 6 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 small knob galangal (rough slice)
  • 2 candlenuts (optional)
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tbsp coconut vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • ¾ tsp salt (just a little, remember meat is salted before paste goes on)

 Directions 

  1. Season meat (1 tsp salt per 1 lb of meat).
  2. Grind paste in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Paste should be salty and slightly sweet.
  3. Combine spice paste with meat.
  4. Marinate minimum overnight.
  5. Skewer lamb on wooden skewers (approx. five inches of meat per stick).
  6. Cook over grill or charcoal. Baste with peanut oil.