7 Ways To Use Malaysian Satay Sauce (Kuah Kacang)

When I started my food business, my specialty was satay (bet you didn’t know that) – I used to cook them on charcoal grills and sell them at the monthly Kirribilli and Mosman Markets in the mid-90s, back when I was still working in an office during the week. And I used to make a disproportionate amount of satay sauce (“kuah kacang” in Malay) to go with my satays because I quickly realised my Aussie customers loved peanut sauce so much they would ask for extra sauce with their orders. In fact, quite a few would ask for just steamed rice served with peanut sauce and nothing else. (You’ll have to ask me one day what happened the time my entire big pot of satay sauce tipped over at the start of the day at Kirribilli and I had no sauce to serve with my hundreds of sticks of satay.)

I don’t need to tell you it can be quite labour intensive to make your own satay sauce at home, because you have to roast and crush the peanuts, prepare and blend lots of garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli, etc., fry them up, and simmer everything until the sauce is the right consistency without burning it. I know there are lots of “no cook” peanut sauce hacks which basically involve blitzing peanut butter in a blender with some other stuff, but we Malaysians cringe and laugh at these half-baked efforts and wouldn’t serve them to our worst enemies.

Well the good news is, you can buy ready-made Malaysian satay sauce right here in Australia. They can come in pouches or in jars, and often it’s just a matter of reheating them, serving them straight out of the bottle, or if they are a dry mix, you want to simmer with water until they thicken into a sauce. The flavours differ depending on the brand, which means you may want to adjust them according to your own taste preferences (ie. you might add more sugar, thin it down, add more tamarind extract etc.), but at least the hard work’s already done for you.

I mentioned that a surprising number of Australian customers used to ask for hot plain rice with satay sauce as a meal – which is not how we use satay sauce in Malaysia as a matter of course (well, not in my day anyway). What are some other ways you can use satay sauce? Here are some quick suggestions –

  1. Satay

First of all, when we say “satay” in Malaysia, we mean the meat on sticks; some Aussies have been known to ask for “satay” when they mean “satay sauce” and “kebabs” when they mean “satay”. Just thought I should point that out since I’ve lost count of the number of times customers have ordered “satay and rice” and were served some sizzling hot satay sticks on a bed of rice with the sauce on the side, for us to be told they didn’t want the “kebabs”, just the “satay”. Maybe I should write a book.

Also, just to clarify, satay sauce is not the same as satay marinade; with Malaysian satays we don’t, as a matter of course, marinate our satays with peanuts or peanut sauce.

To make satays, cut meat into thin, even slices, marinate with satay seasoning – garlic, onion, lemongrass, turmeric, sugar, salt, then skewer and cook on a grill until done and serve with peanut sauce and your favourite sides – cucumber, rice, onion, etc.

2. Vietnamese Spring Roll

Vietnamese spring rolls can be served with a couple of different dips that I’m familiar with; one of them consists of a hoisin and peanut sauce base, which makes ready-made satay sauce perfect for this.

Soak some rice vermicelli in hot water and set aside. Chop up some herbs – I used Malaysian laksa leaves and Thai basil in the video – and prepare the other vegetables – carrots, spring onion, lettuce and cucumber.

To make the dip, place some hoisin sauce in a bowl, add some satay sauce and mix until well-combined.

Soak the rice paper wrappers in warm water, then use them to carefully wrap the vermicelli and salad ingredients into rolls before serving them with the hoisin & peanut sauce dip.

3. Gado- Gado

Gado-gado is a vegetable salad that’s popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, and it’s made with a mix of vegetables, tofu, boiled egg and crackers or keropok, and served with satay sauce. 

To make gado-gado, prepare a variety of vegetables such as cabbage, beansprouts, carrots, snake beans and potatoes.

Boil eggs in water (omit eggs to easily turn this into a vegan dish) and also potato chunks until done, then remove. Cook the other vegetables – cabbage, carrots, snake beans and beansprouts, and drain. 

Arrange a piece of lettuce on a plate, cut up the eggs, assemble everything else and serve topped with satay sauce.

4. Stuffed Tofu

Stuffed tofu or tauhu sumbat is a popular street side snack and it can be served with chilli sauce and/or peanut sauce, and it makes for a delicious and accidentally vegan option for your plant-based guests at your next party.

To make tauhu sumbat, first fry up firm tofu until they’re evenly browned; allow to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the vegetables by cutting into thin strips – you can use cucumber, beansprouts, lettuce and carrot. Cut the beancurd into half diagonally, cut a slit in the middle, then stuff with the vegetables.

Serve drizzled with satay sauce.

5. Satay Celup

Satay celup is an iconic dish from Melaka; it consists of a variety of protein, stuffed vegetables and everything else in between, and it’s cooked and presented hot pot-style with a broth that’s like a thin-downed version of satay sauce.

A shortcut way to make the satay celup broth is by using ready-made satay sauce. Just heat the sauce up with chicken stock or water, and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Skewer your choice of fish balls and other protein or vegetables. Cook in the satay celup sauce until done, then serve.

6. Dipping Sauce

Ready-made satay sauce works great as a general dipping sauce for crudites, chips, crisps, or keropok or Malaysian crackers. I used keropok ikan (Malaysian fish crackers) in this video. To cook them, I heated up the oil to 200C, fried the crackers until they expanded, then removed and drained them on paper towels before serving with satay sauce dip.

7. Stir-fried Noodles

This isn’t in the video (fun fact, I added this because I just realised Paul titled the video “7 ways” when there were only six). Next time you cook some stir-fried egg noodles (ie. “Hokkien” noodles) or vermicelli, try tossing a spoonful or two of peanut sauce through them to give them an extra lift – it works!

So there you have it, some quick and simple suggestions on how to serve Malaysian satay sauce; if you’re after some recipes and more tips, make sure you sign up at MalaysianChefs.com/Recipes and I’ll send them to you when they’re ready along with all my other content from my Malaysian Ingredients Made Easy series, produced in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries of Malaysia’s Agriculture Counsellor Office, Sydney.

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