One of the things that really frustrates me every time I visit East Coast Lagoon FC is the fact that I never really know which of the 10 Malay style satay stalls is really the best. I always end up ordering randomly from whoever does the best touting that night. Sure, there is Haron 30 satay (Stall 55) which is the one that a lot of people recommend, but having tasted it a few times, I remain unconvinced that it is really the best one there. I have this niggly feeling that there is a better Satay around just waiting to be discovered.
So, being a Scienty Fienty(as opposed to Arty Farty) type of a guy, there was only one solution to the problem and that is to do an experiment — A Randomised, Double Blinded, Controlled Trial (yeah right) to find out which Satay is indeed the best.
What I did was to mobilize a dozen test subjects, order Satays from every stall there and taste test each one to find out whether there is a clear favourite. Our unwitting but intrepid test subjects are all experts in their own rights, each with at least 20 years of experience in eating. Of course that’s just counting biological age. The true “eating” age of some of them far exceeds their biological age as evidenced from the subcutaneous storage of unused calories.
Unfortunately for us, 3 of the stalls were closed that night, so we sampled Satays only from the following stalls: 49, 50,51, 55, 56, 58, 60.
We decided only to taste test Chicken Satays since that is the most popular choice. 10 sticks of Satays were ordered from each stall and each judge graded both the Satay and the quality of the peanut sauce.
Here then are our panel of Satay judges: From the far left: who, jems, khim, Melbournite, TeochewHKer, carnineviand, khim(again!), holydrummer, holybunny, holybro, J-star and Dodo. Big round of applause for them who unselfishly sacrificed their calories so that you can save yours! Clap clap clap clap!
You would think that with 10 Satay stalls all competing for the same customers, that competition would be stiff. But the unfortunate truth is that a lot of them taste quite similar and most of them were quite lack lustre. Our judges were penning down more phrases like “terrible, no taste at all, not marinated enough”, than adoring accolades.
There was however a real difference in the quality and style of the Satay gravy that was provided. These ranged from “watery, burnt nutty taste to “consistent” and “can taste peanut” You can appreciate from the picture just how wide a difference there was.
Three of the seven stalls sampled procured their Satays from suppliers, but some make it a point to cook their own peanut sauce. It seemed to me that the sellers are trying to differentiate their products with their sauces rather then on the Satay itself.
The good news is that there was a clear winner that night (with only a minority opposing). Our judges rated this Satay as “Tender and plump, grill taste good and can taste the chicken”.
The accompanying peanut sauce was thick and chunky with generous amount of coarsely ground peanuts. The interesting thing is that the Satay from this stall comes from a supplier, but they do cook their own peanut sauce. And the other interesting thing is they are actually an Ikan Bakar cum Satay stall rather than a specialised Satay stall!
So, without much ado, let me present Musa Ikan Bakar Stall — winner of the ieatishootipost East Coast Lagoon Satay Challenge. 4/5
Personally, I still feel that the overall standard of the Satay here can and should have been better. The problem is that there are so many stalls and no clear favourite, each stall does well enough just by enticing the passersby with their perfunctory “Satay sir?”. They don’t see the need to put in effort on their part to improve their Satay. Think about it, every stall we ate at literally serves the same chunky thigh meat Satay. No one thought about maybe adding the chicken skin, or even doing Chicken Mince like the legendary Fat Man Satay of the old esplanade Satay club. It is just complacency mixed with contentment – a lethal concoction for blah food.
Then, there is this funny thing amongst Singaporeans about not wanting chicken skin in their Satay. I am not saying that eating chicken skin is good for you. You should not eat too much of it especially if you have high cholesterol levels or are overweight. What I am saying is that the same people who frown at eating chicken skin in Satay are also happily munching away at BBQ chicken wings, chicken rice and wagyu beef . It’s a form of gastronomic hypocrisy that has permeated our society.
I think that is what most Satay sellers assume.
As a result, you don’t see any chicken skin in Satays in Singapore whereas they are still widely available in Malaysia. And then we all complain that the Satay is better across the causeway.
Satay is one of the “must try” dishes in the minds of many tourist that visit Singapore. Yet I can’t even name one great Satay in any of the “Satay Clubs” at East Coast Lagoon or Lau Pa Sat! It is truly a great disappointment, but also a great opportunity for some enterprising young entrepreneur to rise to the challenge and give us a “die die must try” Satay for us all to enjoy.
Musa Ikan Bakar Stall