Photos by Emily Caruso
One of my favorite things to do when I’m playing around in the kitchen is to recreate dishes that I’ve had while dining out at restaurants. Restaurants featuring world cuisine are among my favorite places when I'm seeking out new dishes for my kitchen experiments, and the more unusual and exotic, the better. Surprisingly, some of the most seemingly exotic and unusual dishes are some of the simplest. That would be the case for both the satay and peanut sauce components of this recipe.
It was a long time ago that I first tried tempeh satay with peanut sauce, but I distinctly remember thinking it was so amazing and flavorful I’d never be able to recreate it on my own. The name “satay” even sounds crazy and exotic, like it couldn’t possibly mean something as simple as food on a stick.
Food on a stick is exactly what it is though! Okay, food soaked in a super flavorful marinade, then stuck on a stick and cooked, but still pretty simple if you ask me. It’s the marinade that makes it taste out of this world, and even that involves little more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into your food processor. Lemongrass, ginger, shallots and garlic all contribute to the super flavor punch that this satay packs, and happily, these are all ingredients you can get at most supermarkets. Lemongrass is probably the most unusual of the ingredients, but you should be able to find some stalks stashed away in the produce section of most stores, and if not, check the ethnic foods aisle for jarred lemongrass or the spice aisle for dried.
Oh, then there’s the peanut sauce component of this recipe, which is made from all ingredients that are pretty much guaranteed to be in the supermarket, if not already in your pantry.
Traditional satay is cooked on a grill, but since we’re still in April, that may or may not be an option, depending on the weather where you live. If you find yourself wanting to make these on a nice and toasty day, feel free to bust out the outdoor grill. If not, stick with an indoor grill or your oven. Whichever option you take, they’ll be delicious.
For the Tempeh Satay:
- 1 4-inch lemongrass stalk
- 2 shallots peeled
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (about thumb size), peeled
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or any neutral flavor cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Asian chili paste or 1 Thai chili stemmed and seeded (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 small red bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4-6 skewers
For the Peanut Dipping Sauce:
- ¼ cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
- 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- About 2 tablespoons water
To Make the Tempeh Satay:
- If you're using wooden skewers, place them in a shallow dish and cover with water for at least 30 minutes.
- Slice the lemongrass stalk open lengthwise and remove the tough outer layers, retaining the light colored inner stalk. Cut the inner stalk into 1-inch pieces and place it in a food processor bowl with the shallots, garlic, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce or tamari, oil, agave or maple syrup, chili paste or Thai chili and coriander. Blend to a relatively smooth consistency (some small chunks will remain).
- Place the tempeh cubes in a shallow dish. Pour the lemongrass marinade over the tempeh and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, tossing occasionally to distribute marinade.
- Skewer the tempeh cubes, alternating with red pepper pieces, placing 5-7 pieces of each on a skewer. Reserve any excess marinade.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF and lightly coat a baking sheet with oil. Arrange the skewers on the baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, turning about half way through and brushing with reserved marinade. After 12 minutes, switch the to broil and move the baking sheet to a location under broiler. Broil for about 3 minutes, watching closely to prevent burning, until the tempeh and peppers are lightly charred in spots.
To Make the Peanut Dipping Sauce:
- Whisk the peanut butter, lime juice, agave or maple syrup, soy sauce or tamari and ginger together in a small bowl. Add water, a bit at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.