A sub-species of the brightly coloured red jungle fowl found throughout Asia, the domesticated chicken has a long and important relationship with man dating back to at least 6000BC in Southern China. By 1400BC the chicken had reached Egypt, where it was known as the bird that laid eggs every day. The humble chicken features heavily in religion and mythology. In Bali, the chicken is central to many Hindu ceremonies and is considered a channel for evil spirits. Similarly, in Christianity the rooster is symbolic of betrayal due to Jesus’s prophecy of Peter’s denial. In China, the chicken is one of the signs of the Zodiac and both the ancient Greeks and Romans used them as a channel to the dead.
Almost all of the bird can be used for food and, due its historical widespread availability, this has led to a remarkably diverse range of cooked dishes, from traditional roasts, to ayam betutu, satay to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Chicken Satay – the ultimate street food
A national dish of Indonesia and a source of great pride, it is claimed satay originated in Java around 200 years ago. Immensely popular throughout the region, it probably derived from the skewered meat recipes brought by Muslim traders from India and the Middle East. Chicken satay, or sate ayam, is an omnipresent street and restaurant food throughout the whole of Indonesia, with several notable regional variations. Often distinct and a reflection of local tastes and styles, here are just a few.
From Ambal in Central Java, this recipe uses only ayam kampong (free-range chicken) and a sauce made from ground tempeh flavoured with chilli and spices.
Another Central Javanese speciality, Sate Blora uses chicken meat and skin pieces cut smaller than most other styles. It is normally eaten with spicy peanut sauce, rice and a traditional soup made of coconut milk and herbs.
One of the most famous varieties comes from the island of Madura, just off eastern Java. The skewered chicken is marinated in sweet soy and palm sugar flavoured with garlic, shallots, peanut paste, shrimp paste, candlenut and salt before being grilled. It is usually served in a rich peanut sauce with rice cakes and a coconut oil sambal with raw thinly sliced shallot, garlic and chilli.
A very spicy sate marinated and cooked using a fiery sambal. Popular in Jakarta, it is probably an adaptation of the skewered hot Taiwan pork introduced by Chinese migrants many years ago.
Not common outside Sumatra, sate kulit is crisp marinated chicken skin served with rice, sweet soy sauce and garlic.