Satay is an iconic dish in Thailand, but may have gotten its start in Indonesia following an influx of Arab traders there, according to food researchers. Whatever its origins may be, this dish has fully incorporated itself into the culinary fabric of Southeast Asia, burrowing into the food cultures of Malaysia and of course, Thailand (what else is in Southeast Asia? Ha ha. Just kidding. Sort of.)
There are tons of great satay places out there, but I think any satay-lover worth his or her stick would naturally gravitate toward the great vendors of Chinatown, where cooks manage that delicate balancing act between art and commerce, churning out thousands of bamboo skewers of grilled pork (it’s almost always pork, although apparently the skewer started out as a vehicle for beef or mutton) a night.
Jay Eng, on the corner of Plang Nam next to the Canton Shrine, is a favorite of my parents’ and I understand why — it’s grilled porky perfection with a spicier version of the peanut dipping sauce and quick, efficient service. But such dinky little pieces of pork! You know that’s not enough for Glutton queens like moi.
Which is why I prefer Chongki (84-88 Soi Suthorn, 081-615-8733), on the border between Chinatown and Hua Lumphong, and purveyor of the meatiest pork skewers around. Each order comes with a plate of peanut sauce and a bowl of ajad (cucumber-shallot relish with peppers), and slices of freshly grilled bread for just a little extra.
Even better, diners can order from the khao moo daeng (barbecued pork rice) vendor next door for a full-sized meal (but not the chicken rice vendor down the road; apparently the servers won’t walk that far…)