(Photo by Christopher Schultz)
Real friends always, somehow, prove themselves to you. My friend Dwight is able to go an entire lunch watching me try to shove morning glory into my mouth and talk at the same time. My friend Karen is able to listen to me blather for hours on end about my aching foot, or the last conversation I had with my mother. And my friend Chris is able to stomach all manner of Thai “dishes” I manage to throw at him, no matter how repugnant.
(NOTE: Real friends also tell you when your entire post is wrong. Karen has gently reminded me that Khao Soi Islam is run by a Muslim family, so they don’t serve pork! Me no remember. I will either 1. Have to rejig this recipe to do beef and chicken satays, like they REALLY do it at Khao Soi Islam, or 2. try to emulate the satay at Samerjai or Lamduan Faham. Accuracy is so tiresome. This is what happens when I write a post in half an hour before picking up my daughter from school. The sauce recipe for the pork satay below is still pretty good though).
It is hard to make pork satay repugnant. While pork satay is a fine street food dish all on its own, served by vendors up and down and across the land, it is also, inexplicably, the go-to accompaniment for the Northern Thai curried noodles known as khao soy — indeed, no northern Thai vendor worth his or her salt would sell without it.
While the satays at Lamduan Faham and Samerjai in Chiang Mai are rightly praised, it’s the one at Khao Soy Islam in Lampang (Prasanuk Rd., 054-227-826, open 9-14.30 daily) that sticks with me most. Run by a husband and wife team who have served up this dish for the past several decades, Khao Soy Islam also serves a particularly “curry-like” bowl of noodles where they gradually add the coconut milk to the chili paste base bit by bit, over a period of time, instead of all at once at the end like Lamduan. The result is more intense and silkier, and possibly my favorite of all the exemplary bowls available up North.
Like most vendors, Khao Soy Islam is a family affair. The son grills up both chicken and pork satays, with freshly-made peanut dipping sauce and a slightly sweet-sour ajad of cucumber, shallot and chilies. It was this satay that Chris and I tasked ourselves with trying to replicate.
A brief note: We used kebab-style cubes of pork tenderloin here, because I am really lazy and just bought stuff from the grocer’s pre-cut. It’s fine, but doesn’t absorb the marinade as well as a thinly-sliced piece of meat would. We also made this in the oven, but if you have a grill, please use it by all means. Grill 5-7 minutes, or until meat bears a slight, delicious char.
Pork and chicken Satay (makes 4 servings)
– 300 g pork shoulder, sliced thinly
– 300 g chicken thigh, sliced
– 1 Tablespoon curry powder
– 1/2 cup coconut milk
– 1 Tablespoon honey
– 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
– 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
– 3 garlic cloves, smashed
– 2 shallots, smashed
– 1-3 red chilies, crushed
– Satay sticks
1. Soak satay sticks in water.
2. Setting meat aside, combine all other ingredients to make marinade. Pour half of marinade over pork and other half over chicken and set in refrigerator for at least an hour.
3. When ready to cook, turn oven on to full whack and thread meat onto sticks. Place sticks onto oiled baking sheet (or, ideally, a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet) and set in position closest to heat. “Grill” for 5-7 minutes, or until meat is browned and even slightly charred at edges.
For Chris’s peanut sauce:
– 1 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (unsalted), or 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
– 1/2 cup coconut milk
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 tsp soy sauce
– 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
– 1 Tablespoon brown sugar (omit if using peanut butter)
– 1 Tablespoon fish sauce (or to taste)
– 2 tsp tamarind paste (or lime juice)
– 1 tsp Sriracha sauce or Thai chili sauce
– 1/4 cup water (if needed to thin mixture)
Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings until balance between tangy, spicy, sweet and salty is achieved.
For cucumber-shallot relish:
– 1 small cucumber, washed and sliced
– 3 red chilies, sliced
– 3 shallots, sliced
– 1/2 cup rice vinegar
– 1 Tablespoon white sugar
Combine all ingredients, making sure sugar dissolves in vinegar. Serve with satay, peanut sauce, and toasted white bread if you are so inclined.