14 Dec2010


We lived in Jakarta on and off for the better part of 4 years in the early 1990’s and always enjoyed the myriad of sátes (skewered meats on a bamboo stick) often served with a spicy peanut sauce. The meat was flavorful, moist and succulent. Paired with acar or pickles, it was one of my staple meals at the time. When I tired of beef sáte, I ordered chicken, and more often than not it was just as good as the beef, and rarely bone dry. So that latent love for sate is probably what recently drove me to experiment with chicken barbecue on a stick over hot coals. Both experiments rated rather poorly on the Marketman scale of 1 to 10…


I used chicken breast (white meat) fillets, cut into smaller pieces. That was probably the first of several errors… next time perhaps chunks of dark meat would be more flavorful, fatty and moist. For barbecue version 1, photo up top, I marinated the barbecue in canned coconut cream and several tablespoons of bottled ginisang bagoong and lots of cracked black pepper. I figured that the coconut milk might help to keep the meat moist. After about 90 minutes in the marinade, we put the chicken on bamboo sticks and grilled them over a hot fire. The second mistake is that the grill wasn’t oiled (because it’s smarter to oil the meat than the grill) and the meat dried out quickly AND stuck to the grill. The flavor was kinda nice, but the meat was bone dry and bordering on cardboard-like texture.

Version 2 of chicken barbecue used a more common marinade of soy, brown sugar, kalamansi, pepper, chilies, garlic, lemongrass, etc. and that was left for about 90 minutes as well. This grilled up on the same fire also resulted in serious sticking and dry meat. This tasted familiar, but wasn’t terribly appetizing. The crew munched on both of these with apparent joy… Spoiled food brats. :)


So the chicken barbecue experiments Round 1 were a total flop. And btw, I have never been able to do a satisfactory pork barbecue recipe either… I gave up a couple of years ago after several iterations that yielded equally unsatisfactory results. And yet every darned street corner in the Philippines seems to have thriving pork barbecue vendors in the early evening hours… harumphhh. Any bright ideas?



  1. ntgerald says:

    When cooked over charcoal, Pinoys usually love their meats dry. Hence every street corner has a barbecue vendor, but you can rarely see moist meat. Parang candied meat pati sa tamis.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 7:52 pm


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  3. millet says:

    am not a chicken barbecue fan (love pork bbq, though), but the inasal in bacolod’s manokan country (aida’s is our default go-to) is the super bestest chicken barbecue in the whole world for me. no hint of soysauce and sugar, and the meat is so white, moist and flavorful, with no single flavor standing out, and absolutely NO trace of blood even along the bones. it’s just consistently good!

    i do not know why outside bacolod, the taste and quality change, even in those places that claim to serve authentic bacolod inasal na manok.

    MM, try marinating overnight – the effect is the same as brining, with added flavor to boot.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 8:13 pm

  4. EbbaBlue says:

    On my mix, I add Lee Kum Qee Sweet Chili Sauce onto the coconut milk. Somehow, it has the right sweetness/hotness and makes my meat moist. Last minute cooking, I brush the meat with the mixture (set-aside for this purpose). And yeah, with chicken, the breast tend to be dry. A friend marinate hers on a “tocino” mixture + banana catsup.. it comes out moist too…and she also brushes hers 10 mins. before final grilling.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 8:20 pm

  5. Mary Kim says:

    MM,i don’t think soy sauce is a must but just for color–it will burn, and i think medium heat–lots of charcoal fire in there. maybe brush the meat with oil/marinade several times while cooking– i think jamie oliver has one good recipe on that.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 8:25 pm

  6. Anne :-) says:

    We usually combined Sprite, calamansi, pepper, onions, garlic with Mama Sita’s Bbq marinade and have those pork/chicken marinate overnight….this is superbly tasteful!

    Dec 14, 2010 | 8:49 pm

  7. Kasseopeia says:

    From experience, breast is very difficult to grill up nicely and keep moist. Most roadside barbecue stalls also fail at this. So I stick with what I know best: using dark meat (thigh and legs, yum!), drowning the lot in marinade for 24 hours or more, wiping the grill down with oil (palm does fine, methinks) using a Good Morning towel, and keeping the fire hot enough to cook but cool enough not to burn.

    The usual marinade I use is calamansi (high burn factor) + vinegar + patis (not toyo, because it burns like heck!) + lots of black pepper from my labor-intensive mill.

    My mom has a “cheat” version of calamansi, Knorr seasoning and black pepper straight from a bottle with a green cap.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 8:57 pm

  8. Anything Under the Sun says:

    this is superb, very time for christmas

    Dec 14, 2010 | 9:52 pm

  9. Buddy says:

    I once made an excellent inihaw na baboy by curing the pork belly for about 2 weeks before grilling it. Kept the pork belly juicy.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 10:04 pm

  10. myra_p says:

    I would actually try to marinate in yogurt, like tandoori chicken… Makes the meat soft and moist. BUT, never over marinate with yogurt; it can actually make the meat too soft. When I marinate for tandoori chicken bbq, one hour is more than sufficient. Then onto a very hot grill.

    Dec 14, 2010 | 11:33 pm

  11. lorraine says:

    maybe you can ask the street vendors how they cook theirs. they may not give you their marinade recipe but they could give you pointers. what do you think? or you can do an article on how street vendor cook their fares. :)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 12:33 am

  12. roland says:

    lean pork and chicken is always tough for me too — whenever I do it right it is because i grilled in smaller batches. That way I can tend to the skewers better and reduce flare ups and baste like crazy. I start the skewers on very hot coals (flipping them almost every minute for the first six minutes and then start moving them to indirect heat as they get done. I tend to finish the skewers off in a “warming” section of my grill. I once changed meal ideas mid prep and I ended up grilling brined chicken and pork, that also helped the dryness issue.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 12:56 am

  13. betty q. says:

    …try cutting them into CUBES instead of strips next time, MM. Then here is the marinade…this is rather basic and you can add your herbs like cilantro or coriander, lemongrass if you want….about 1/3 cup coconut milk or cream if using cnned, some finely minced ginger and garlic, 3 tbsp. oil. 4 pinches curry powder, 1 to 2 T. patis, 1 to 2 T. lime juice, 5 big pinches sugar (to taste), pinch of salt and white pepper, then add a bit of lemongrass, or finely minced cilantro or thai basil. Also, add some turmeric…

    Now, when you barbecue them, oil the grill and when smoking hot and grill only 2 minutes on each side….grill marks is what you are after…then finish them off in a hot oven…pan covered with foil. ENJOY! …don’t forge the peanut sauce!

    If you need to cut them into strips and skewer them like in your pictures up above, try to thread them like SIKSIK (I hope you can picture it for I do not know how to explain it!) after each other… no sight of bamboo…that way it looks like CUBES…

    Dec 15, 2010 | 1:58 am

  14. chrisb says:

    Brining works well with grilled pork chops, maybe it’ll work well with bbq?

    Dec 15, 2010 | 3:04 am

  15. jdawgg says:

    Hello Marketman,

    Merry Christmas to you, your family and to all your reader. Just a suggestion, Try using “LOBO” Satay Seasoning Mix. It does wonders for my Pork or Chicken Satay.


    Dec 15, 2010 | 3:06 am

  16. betty q. says:

    ChrisB…I brine everything from turkeys to quail!…and then barbecue…barbecued quail is yummy…then I make dipping sauces…coconut like satay marinade…tthen peanut sauce as well and cucumber achara. Have you tried the garlicky brine I posted before?

    Dec 15, 2010 | 4:04 am

  17. Angela says:

    Hi MM,

    I typically use dark meat for bbq. For recipes that call for breast meat (e.g. chicken souvlaki), I brine it a minimum of 6 hours.

    Speaking of brining, you have the Momofuku cookbook, don’t you? There is a recipe there for fried chicken that requires the chicken to be brined. It’s YUMMY especially served with the sauce that is recommended in the recipe.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 5:27 am

  18. leo says:

    Occasionally brushing the meat with the banana ketsup and cooking oil mixture while grilling keeps the meat moist. That is what the barbque vendors in my street are doing.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 6:45 am

  19. Betchay says:

    I usually do what Betty Q does –grill a few minutes for the grill marks and finish off in the oven–and I find the meat moist but of course there is no substitute for the rich smoky flavor a full charcoal grilling imparts!
    Betty Q–I think I missed that garlicky brine.Care to give the recipe again?Thanks.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 8:48 am

  20. present tense says:

    This from a Paris trained chef: emulsify some sugar into some soy sauce until syrupy. The saltiness of the soy should be neutralized somewhat until you have a somewhat sweet / salty combo ( think teriyaki ), then add loads of finely minced garlic until its fragrance, sharpness, and tang are completely infused into the syrup. I’d estimate this to be roughly a third or fourth in volume compared to the syrup. This is your marinade. It will approximate maybe even outdo most roadside stands where 7Up and ketchup are used because the amount of garlic used will infuse its flavor into the BBQ. And this works well with chicken or pork. Serve with some jave rice, peanut sauce, and achara. Cheers ! Hope that helps.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 9:13 am

  21. GayeN says:

    We always had dry pork BBQs before I found out that you have to occasionally brush the meat with a mixture of banana catsup and some of the marinade while grilling. We don’t usually take note of the cooking time just keeping an eye on the grill and occasional taste test does the trick. Now we have moist BBQs, a plateful gets wiped out in less than 5 minutes!

    As for chicken BBQ, we’re not really fans of home cooked chicken BBQ but I once saw a friend prepare his family’s recipe. He doesn’t measure the ingredients but I saw him prepare a mixture of sprite, calamansi, soy sauce, ground pepper, a few cloves of crushed garlic and a few other “secret” ingredients. He then marinated the meat at least a hour. After that, he skewered the chicken then put that and the marinade in a pan. He added just enough water to cover everything and parboiled the chicken for a few minutes. He said parboiling partially cooks the meat so he doesn’t have to grill it for a long time. He took out the parboiled chicken skewers then let it cool. He grilled the chicken and occasionally brushing a “secret” basting mixture, he doesn’t keep track of the time too. I guess he cooks the chicken all the time he just estimate if its cooked through. The barbequed chicken was delicious, it was moist and cooked through! I haven’t tried this a home but it’s worth a try. Good luck! :)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 9:50 am

  22. Marnie says:

    Use skinless chicken thigh fillets for juicy chicken bbq or if you are using chicken breasts, skewer the meat closer together, not spread out, to keep moisture in. You can also put a bit of peanut oil or any oil of your choice in the marinade.
    An Indonesian friend also advised me to use ground skin-on roasted peanuts in the sauce/marinade because the ground peanut skins give the satay a nice colour.
    Also, try to cut the chicken meat in the same size and shape so it will cook evenly.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 9:50 am

  23. NYCMama says:

    I use boneless chicken thighs, and hardly ever white meat anymore. It is tastier and juicier, and so convenient that it’s boneless!

    Dec 15, 2010 | 10:06 am

  24. Ellen says:

    I agree on last 2 comments. Chicken thigh is the way to go if u want moist meat MM. Marinade for me is very simple. Brown sugar, crushed garlic, lemon or calamansi juice n a bit of soy sauce :)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 11:22 am

  25. APM says:

    Hi Marketman.

    I agree with Betty Q’s comments. Except that instead of finishing on the oven, I still finish on the grill. First of all I use a kettle grill. Second when I build a fire, I place the charcoal only on the sides of the grill leaving the center coal free. The first step of grilling would involve two minutes per side over the coals with the cover open and then shifting the skewers to the center and closing the cover and smoking the skewers until they are done. So the grilling technique is a combination of direct and indirect heat.

    Best regards

    Dec 15, 2010 | 11:25 am

  26. christine says:

    Opting for thicker cuts of the chicken meat will work, skewered tightly close to one another. I think some vendors try to sneak in some fat/skin in between to keep them juicy. I tried a marinade of toyo, calamansi, tamis-anghang ketchup, black pepper and sprite — turned out good, specially with lots of rice. =)
    I tried basting with a mixture of tamis-anghang ketchup and canola oil while grilling (similar to the one i saw on the streets — where the 2 layers were distinctly seen).

    Dec 15, 2010 | 11:33 am

  27. Botchok says:

    I suddenly missed the famous pork bbq in Manila, the one in “Vito cruz”. I used to buy there every night on the way home, the owners are a family friend. Now im craving for a bbq, if im in Pinas i’ll just go out and buy on the side street.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 12:38 pm

  28. Doddie Householder says:

    I am with Millet. I lived in Bacolod for several years and Aida’s in Manokan Country was THE place to go for Chicken Inasal. Thank goodness my brother married an Ilongga and I got a great Inasal Recipe from her. We always grill inasal here in Korea. Even in the winter months. :)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 1:11 pm

  29. daddy_run says:

    Hi Mr. MM, have been a visitor to your site for the past year. Im surprised that you did not brine the chicken meat nor baste it with olive oil. The bbqs I have done so far post MM discovery were variants of the preparation ive learned on your blog ie always brined, with olive oil, lemon grass and all natural ingredients, no magic sarap no msg. I dont use sugar as it is guaranteed to caramelise the meat and will make it look like carcinogenic bbq. So far the results are encouraging based on nil leftover and heavier rice consumption heheh. Ive also followed your tip of using a meat thermometer making sure i take the meat off the grill just just when it fits 160degress. Juicy inside! thank you again for your entries and look forward to more your recipes. Beats eating out and worse, paying VAT on top.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 1:35 pm

  30. Marketman says:

    daddy_run, we didn’t have time to brine, only 1.5 hours between arriving from the grocery and cook time. But yes, I love to brine… :) Thank you everyone for these wonderful ideas, will keep at this in the months ahead…

    Dec 15, 2010 | 2:38 pm

  31. philip says:

    I think its how you cook it. the distance between the coal and meat itself. i like my BBQ soft and juicy. one good way to achieve it is low heat cooking somewaht similar to smoking meat.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 3:06 pm

  32. chrisb says:

    Betty Q, I’ll try that soon. I should say you never fail to amaze me with your recipes. You’re a walking Larousse gastronomique! Btw, I’ve used your tibok tibok recipe. Funny thing I got distracted with another dish I was cooking and left it for a few seconds (I think, or it could have been a minute). It formed lumps so I had to pass it through a fine drum sieve. Turned out well in the end. =)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 3:52 pm

  33. jean says:

    I think the less salt you put in the marinade (especially for longer marinating times), the better. Salt tends to draw moisture out of meat. Perhaps use soy sauce or any soy-based or high-sodium condiment more as a glaze to brush on during the last minutes of cooking? Just a thought.

    Dec 15, 2010 | 7:30 pm

  34. Ingrid says:

    I agree with APM, grilling with indirect heat will make the meat piece moist. :)

    Dec 15, 2010 | 8:28 pm

  35. Junb says:

    Hi MM, barbecue is the same as Satay here…my own rule…do not attemp to try healthy cut like breast or lean meat :)… The more fat the better…I suggest chicken leg :)

    Marinate at least overnight on a blended or pounded spices such as galangal, lemon grass, cooking oil, chili then barbecue 2-3 minutes only on each side. I think your grill type also is not suitable for satay. try this recipe http://artscentral.mediacorptv.com/recipes/Gourmet%20Hunt/03%20satay%20recipe.doc

    For your pork barbecue try to boil your marinade add olive till it thicken then baste while barbecuing.

    Dec 16, 2010 | 1:03 am

  36. angeliquem says:

    Mr. Marketman–definitely red meat would work best. I was also a breast meat user for the longest time until a friend of mine cooked this simple yet super delicious dish with thigh fillets. The stay moist longer and can withstand higher temperatures… Or brining breast meat as some have suggested may also work… Am so glad you are back! Happy Holidays! :D

    Dec 16, 2010 | 1:12 am

  37. Junb says:

    If you want to try your authentic satay. You may want to replicate the satay grill in this picture http://sparklette.net/travel/singapore/singapore-food-festival-lau-pa-sat/

    Also based on my observation they tend to barbecue their satay with flame too to attain the char taste that are most common for Singapore satay not sure if it’s because they want to cook it faster or for taste purposes.

    Dec 16, 2010 | 1:18 am

  38. betty q. says:

    …there is a Singaporean resto in Richmond that has been there for sges and serves the BEST Chicken Satay…that is what I replicated and succeeded! It looks EXACTLY like the picture on JunB’s post. For cost effectiveness, they use both chicken breast and dark meat and slice them thin and thread them SIKSIK so it looks like cubes, MM…I forgot MM, the oil in the recipe I posted up above, I add it after it has been marinating and just before I thread them in the skewers. Also. I forgot to add the cornstarch…just 1/2 to 1 tsp. for that amount of marinade which is good for about a chicken breast and 1 chicken leg…deboned.

    Betchay: when chicken legs go on sale, I buy bulk and barbecue 10 pounds at a time. Here is the brine again. In a blender, 2 cups cold water, 4 large cloves garlic, 2 tsp. kosher salt, 2 tssp. freshly ground pepper, 2 tsp. seasoned garlic salt( 1 part, garlic powder, 2 parts, freshly ground pepper, 3 parts sea salt, my brother-in-law adds vetsin but I don’t), atsuete or yellow food color, KASUBHA! Blend till smooth (garlic cloves), then pour in a plastic bucket and add 2 more cups cold water (total voluime water is 4 cups…if I add the entire amount in teh blender, it might splatter when I turn the blender on). Make sure chicken is totally submnerged. Oh, score the meaty part of the drumstick and the thigh. Then next day, remo ve from brine and barbecue on medium to low heat. It will take quite a bit of time . At any rate, it will remain juicy and moist in spite of the long barbecuing time. We love LEFTOVERS! So the boys remove the meat from the chicken and lay them on a warm tortilla, top it with a bit of java rice, pico de gallo, some shredded lettuce. I know it sounds a weird concoction but it’s really good. Try this brine Betchay next time you want to eat just plain, finger licking good chicken without the extra calories from deep frying! Maybe you can make this and have a stand just in front of your house and sell them. I wanted to make lechon manok a few years ago. So instead of a whole chicken, I butterflied it, soak them in the brine and barbecued it too….you have got to try it MM!

    I always bring this to picnics and people cannot believe that it is just plain garlic salt and pepper. They ALWAYS say that I must have a secret ingredient! NADA….I tell them!

    Dec 16, 2010 | 2:30 am

  39. millet says:

    what do you do with 10 lbs. of barbecued chicken legs, betty q? awesome! would love to be in one of your picnics. let the others play frisbee, am just going to eat bettyq’s food!

    Dec 16, 2010 | 8:23 am

  40. Jeff says:

    i usually add oil to the marinade to keep the meat shiny and moist while on the grill…try it…it worked for me…minus the burnt sides…

    Dec 16, 2010 | 11:15 am

  41. erleen says:

    Make sure the meat is “siksikan” on the stick. We usually use wings and leg parts. Also, our basic marinade is brown sugar, garlic, calamansi (I even include the rinds after squeezing), black pepper and soy sauce (Marca Pina).

    Dec 16, 2010 | 11:57 am

  42. Maureen says:

    This is the recipe I use when making sate: http://www.cuisine.com.au/recipe/Sate-daging

    Turns out just like how my grandmother used to make it.

    Dec 16, 2010 | 6:23 pm

  43. farida says:

    @bettyq, must try your brine solution but I don’t like to grill so I will bake the chicken in the oven instead. Thanks for the recipe. what is the name of that Singaporean resto in Richmond?

    Dec 17, 2010 | 3:41 pm

  44. betty q. says:

    Farida…maybe you can ask your hubby to grill the chicken. In our neighbourhood, I always see the men as master of the barbecue. I must be the only exception in our neighbourhood!

    The resto in Richmond is Prata something. It is only a really small resto tucked in the corner of a small mall. it is on Garden City before Cambie Road if you are coming from Vancouver…it is righ in front of the bus depot along Garden City. I saw them grilling theri satays on an electric barbecue grill table top.

    Dec 18, 2010 | 12:41 am

  45. joby g. says:

    we usually bunch the meat pieces more tightly together on the stick even if sliced thinly (so you don’t have to chew a whole chunk at any one time), be it pork or chicken so that it doesn’t dry out as fast but still cooks through…marinading over night might make the meat too mushy from what i have experienced… i like betty q’s tip as well….

    Dec 18, 2010 | 3:19 pm

  46. Betchay says:

    Thank you Betty Q for the recipe.I think I’ll try that in our Xmas party. You are really a generous person like MM.Merry Christmas to you too!

    Dec 20, 2010 | 8:46 am


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