Kuantan, Malaysia - The Perfect Malay Satay
I'd trawled the length and breadth of Malaysia the past 4 decades searching for the "perfect Malay satay". Having grown up with the famous satays from, where else, but the Satay Club in Singapore, Malay-style satays were my personal fave (as compared to Chinese-style, Thai or Indonesian-style satays).
For the longest time, I thought the best Malay-style satay I'd ever tasted was Haji Samuri of Kajang, a sleepy hollow of a town an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur.
But yesterday, I got to try Satay Zul in Kuantan, a languid town on the East Coast of Malaysia, 160 miles north-east of Kuala Lumpur. Personally, I'd put Satay Zul up there with the best of them. Started 32 years ago by "Pakcik" (Malay for 'uncle') Zul as a little satay kiosk by the pavement a couple of miles from the beaches of Teluk Chempedak, Satay Zul today consisted of an older, larger restaurant called Terminal Satay Zul, and a niftier, more modern outlet called Sate ("Sate" and "Satay" seemed to be used interchangeably here) Zul Recipe - both run by the founder-owner's family.
We tried Sate Zul Recipe, which looked brighter. What we tried:
- Chicken satay
- Ox-stomach satay
- Chicken liver satay
The chicken satays were nice - meaty, firm, smoky-delicious from being barbecued over high flames. The peanut sauce was a revelation - simply one of the best I'd tasted ANYWHERE! The coarsely-ground nuts were simmered with a spicy sauce redolent of turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, chillies and a multitude of spices. In fact, the chicken meat themselves were caramelly-soft and tasty, good enough to eat on their own without the sauce.
But the revelation was the ox-stomach satay - pure deliciousness concentrated into a skewer of 3 rectangular pieces of incredibly soft and well-marinated ox-stomach. tastier even than the funky pig's intestinal satay from Ipoh's legendary Kong Heng coffeeshop (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598851).
The chicken liver satay was also delicious, albeit slightly overcooked, resulting in drier than expected livers.
For drinks, I rather enjoyed the "asam boi", a cold refreshing glass of citrus juice with whole small sweetened local limes inside.
The "kopi tarek", foamy local white coffee was thick & delicious.
If I live in Kuantan, I'd come to this place *every day*! It is *that* good. Anyway, for any self-respecting Malaysian foodie - NO visit to Kuantan would be complete without a visit to Satay Zul although, be forewarned, the queues are long and you need to be prepared to wait.
P.S. - I'd rate Satay Zul above the famous Haji Samuri Satay from Kajang, and currently a contender for the best satay in Malaysia. Need to go to Kota Bharu, Kelantan, next time to suss out the satays there - I heard there are a few hidden gems just waiting to be discovered there.
Sate Zul Recipe
A25, Ground Floor, Wisma Bukit Bauk
Kuantan Avenue, off Jalan Beserah
252 250 Kuantan
Terminal Satay Zul
A 2600, Jalan Alor Akar, off Jalan Teluk Sisek
How was the tripe prepared for grilling on the satay coals, d'you know? I can't imagine it would not have been precooked substantially even before the marinating (what spices?) - if "insufficiently cooked" tripe pieces had been "satay-ed" I would think you would be commenting on its chewiness...
No beef satay for you that day? I read of positive comments (online) about the beef ones there. :-) I also gather the ketupat and cucumbers would have been extra.
I actually suspected that the tripe was pre-cooked prior to barbecuing, as there was hardly any chewiness to it. I couldn't figure out the complex spice mix used to marinade the meats - but I do detect some fenugreek, onions, lemongrass, turmeric, sugar & galangal.
No, I didn't have any beef satay as they tend to be heavier, and this was actually a pre-dinner snack so I didn't want to overdo it ;-)
Yes, I was surprised that the cucumber and onions were "extras" which were chargeable - but since each only costed RM1 (USD0.30), I ordered the works. The "nasi himpit" (compressed rice) was essential to provide a contrast to the strong flavors of the satay.