Chef's Recipes

Balinese seafood satay (Sate lilit)

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for Balinese seafood satay (Sate lilit)

By Tony Tan
  • Serves 20
  • 40 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking
Balinese seafood satay (Sate lilit)
Balinese seafood satay (Sate lilit)

It may come as a surprise but Indonesia is the home of the satay (sate in Indonesia) and there are literally hundreds of permutations. Satay can be made with beef, poultry, goat, pork, rabbit, offal, turtle and even minced seafood wrapped around sticks of lemongrass. The last is called sate lilit and it originated in Bali. It's not served with the usual peanut sauce, or any sauce for that matter, and it's absolutely irresistible. This recipe is adapted from The Food of Bali by Heinz von Holzen.


  • 300 gm skinless snapper or flathead fillet, pin-boned, coarsely chopped
  • 300 gm uncooked medium prawns, peeled
  • 80 gm desiccated coconut, moistened with 60ml coconut milk or water (1 cup)
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp dark palm sugar (see note)
  • 10 thin lemongrass stalks, cut into 15cm lengths, for skewers (see note)
  • of brown sugar mixed with 60ml vegetable oil, for brushing, Pinch
Spice paste
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 25 gm each ginger and fresh turmeric, coarsely chopped (5cm piece)
  • 4 each long red chillies and red birdseye chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small golden shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 5 candlenuts (see note)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (see note)
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns, finely crushed
  • 80 gm tamarind pulp, mixed with 60ml water, strained, solids discarded (¼ cup)
  • 50 ml vegetable oil


  • 1
    For spice paste, process ingredients (except tamarind paste and oil) in a food processor until a fine paste forms, adding a little water if necessary. Add oil and spice paste to a frying pan over medium heat and stir-fry until fragrant (5-6 minutes). Add tamarind and stir frequently until paste is golden (3 minutes), then set aside to cool.
  • 2
    Process fish and prawns in a food processor until just blended, then transfer to a bowl and mix with coconut, lime leaves, palm sugar and spice paste. To test the flavour, fry a little mixture in oil until cooked through. Adjust seasoning to taste if required, then mould heaped tablespoons of mixture onto one end of lemongrass stalks.
  • 3
    Heat a char-grill pan over high heat. Grill satay, turning and brushing occasionally with brown sugar and oil mixture, until golden and cooked through (5-6 minutes each side). Serve hot.


Note Dark palm sugar is made from the coconut palm; in Indonesia it's called gula Jawa. If lemongrass is unavailable, you can use bamboo paddles or wooden chopsticks as skewers. Soak them in water for 20 minutes then dry them before using. Candlenuts are available from Asian grocers. Shrimp paste, known as terasi in Indonesia, is available from Asian grocers. It requires roasting before use: preheat oven to 200C, wrap shrimp paste in foil and roast until fragrant (5 minutes). This recipe is from the June 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

  • Author: Tony Tan