Indian-Style Chicken Satay

This won't turn into a food blog permanently, promise.

So, everyone has enjoyed satay, those beautiful skewers of rippling grilled meat, bright gold from their marinade, at a Malay or Thai restaurant. What makes them so delicious?

They are impossible to make, I say, and the sheer unfamiliarity makes them fascinating. Or, rather, the seasonings that go into satay marinade are hard to come by in an American kitchen—galangal, lemongrass, tamarind, fresh turmeric—and some are strange to American tastes; one source calls for a small amout of belacan, Malay fermented shrimp paste.

Being that I live in an Indian kitchen, though, I thought I could approximate. Looking around, I found that the marinade's built around a foundation of equal parts cumin and coriander. That's easy enough. Turmeric on top of that, for the yellow colour; easy. Sugar. Garlic. After this the ingredient lists start to diverge. Lemongrass! one cries. Fish sauce, lemon juice! another declaims.

It seems like these are establishing the sour and salty aspects of the marinade. I went for salt and Worcestershire sauce (I have fish sauce, but I'm serving people who don't like it) for salty, and tamarind for sourness; as I recall, it's also a fair tenderiser for meats, which will be nice. I find lemon toughens things, and lemongrass imparts a lot of fragrance but not much taste. One recipe calls for anise, which I thought intriguing, and another for chili powder—neither seems particularly authentic but they are welcome.

The recipe I ended up using looked something like this:

  • 1 teaspoon each: Cumin, coriander, red chile powder*, sugar, turmeric
  • 1 clove: Garlic
  • 1 pod: Star anise
  • A splash: Tamarind concentrate, Worcestershire sauce (I didn't really measure these; start with a half teaspoon of each and adjust up.)
  • 1 Tablespoon: Vegetable oil
  • As needed: Salt & pepper, water

Grind the star anise and spices (except the turmeric, it'll stain your spice grinder) together to make a find powder; mince the garlic or pound it to a paste. Add to the sugar, tamarind, turmeric, Worcestershire sauce, and oil. Mix well, adding water to make a smooth thin paste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Marinate 1 pound of meat overnight in this marinade.

The anise is very intense here; though it seems like cooking it subdues the almost overpowering smell of the marinade, it is a little stronger than I liked. I'd use half a pod (four lobes) next time. I'd also increase the amount of chile powder; the spiciness didn't come through the other flavors at all. Nonetheless, it looked exactly right, and the flavor came reasonably close to restaurant-style satay, so I think it'll be even better with the changes I described. Possibly also add salt.

It was nice on ciabatta with peanut sauce and mâche, but the greens were a little too tender for the sandwich overall. Some wilted spinach might have done the job more gracefully, if less beautifully.

*: This refers to the powder of dried red chiles, not the chile-based spice mixture.

Xin Chao and the Legend of Buildings

The saga of Vakhriyya Dawndrinker does not begin on the dawn of that chilly day when she sailed across the Sea of Years in her grey driftwood ship.

Nor does it begin some millennia before her birth, when Rustam on his ship of flowers landed here, when he and Allevih the witch and Durat the swordsmith became two kings and a queen, and ruled with great honesty and craftiness and glory.

Nor does it begin some hundreds of years later, when those three sailed away on the counsel of dreams, leaving their empire to collapse.

The saga of Vakhriyya Dawndrinker begins long before that, in a forgotten place in forgotten years, when Xin Chao tended his goats among the long grasses. They grazed day and night, uncaring, because Xin Chao's heart was like the sun.

Then the winds came to the hills of Xin, and with them the dust and the black kites that beat at Xin Chao with their wings and tore his flesh with their claws. Then Xin Chao's blood came out onto the red earth.

Then the rains came to the hills of Xin, soaking the goats and washing Xin Chao's blood into the red rivers and red streams.

Then the darkness came to the hills of Xin, the clicking darkness of velvet spiders and ebony wasps and onyx scorpions with stingers held high, and when Xin Chao gasped in fright he breathed them in and drowned in them.

Yet Xin Chao was undaunted, because his heart was like the sun.

So he took his sword and he crushed the spiders and he beat back the rain and he cut the wind's wings so that it could no longer fly, and he said to his long-suffering goats, "My heart is like the sun, but yours are not, and so I will build you a...a building! A building that will shelter you from outside as my heart shelters me from inside.

So he took his sword and he cut trees and reeds and blocks of earth and he built a...a building. He put his goats inside.

Then when the winds and rains and darkness came, they washed up against the...the building's walls, and were beaten back, and Xin Chao sat on the top of a hill and laughed, and they slunk away, muttering bitter, bitter oaths.

Thousands of years later, Vakhriyya Dawndrinker awoke to hear curses on the wind.

Torchbearer Playtest Materials

I've finished assembling playtest materials for Torchbearer. Now I am looking for playtesters! If you're looking for a new game to play, let me know and I'll tell you about TB; the address is arichesja (a symbol goes here) gmail (punctuation) com.


The Other Side

So, Mridangam is basically out of my hands.

Feels good.

So, I'd been wondering about why I haven't had anything to write about Feneng lately, and then I figured it out: I accidentally gave her a place in the world.



blackbirdlantern. Yeah, I guess I'll try this out.


Mo on Push and Pull

Mo says things that I have been trying to verbalise about Mridangam.


Caesar Salad with Stuff

So, I've been craving some odd things lately: Caesar salad, corn, feta, mushrooms...

Turns out they taste pretty good together; I pan-fried the corn to get some colour on it, and threw in leftover fajita-style chicken and grilled portabella mushrooms, warmed it all up, and poured over Romaine with Caesar dressing and chunks of peppercorn feta.

In fact, this was delicious. Unfortunately the feta in the photo looks a little unappetizing.... The sweetness of the chicken and corn were a nice balance for the salty feta and unnameable meaty flavour of the mushroom—is that what they call umami? The slightly bitter greens and tangy dressing satisfied my other taste cravings excellently. One thing I'd change is to cube the feta smaller and maybe find a way to warm it up; it's just this side of overwhelming. I still have a little box of corn in the fridge, and I'm thinking of ways to use it up.

That thing on the right is whipped cream, a little too stiff, floating on Turkish coffee; ideally you get a little bit of fluffy cream and a bit of coffee in each sip, but the cream turned out to be too dense and I ended up thinning it out with skimmed milk and ice. It didn't really go with the salad even remotely, but I needed the caffeine.

So, here's to, hopefully, the end of this Raven hiatus. I'm gonna allow myself to blog on more stuff than just fiction and games from now on; it helps to keep my mind moving.