Sata: The Traditional Skewered Fish Cake from Terengganu
Sata, also known as Satar or Satah, is a traditional fish cake hailing from Terengganu, a state in Malaysia. This delectable delicacy is uniquely shaped like a pyramid and wrapped in banana leaves. The term “sata” means “straight,” which refers to the grilling method where multiple pyramids are skewered onto bamboo sticks in a straight line. The key ingredients in Sata include fish meat, typically sardines, grated coconut, ginger, onions, chillies, and an array of herbs and spices like black pepper and lemongrass.
Legend has it that in the past, fishermen along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia often caught an abundance of sardines without having access to freezers to preserve the surplus. Rather than letting the fish go to waste, they ingeniously transformed the fish into various dishes. Given the ready availability of coconuts, the combination of fish and coconut eventually led to the creation of this unique dish known as Sata.
The preparation of Sata involves three main steps: mixing, packing, and grilling. First, the fish is boiled and deboned, leaving only the tender meat. The fish meat is then pounded into a paste and combined with the aforementioned ingredients, along with a pinch of salt and sugar. The spiced fish paste is carefully packed into banana leaves and folded into small pyramids. These pyramids are then skewered and grilled over hot coals until cooked to perfection. During the grilling process, the aromatic blend of spiced fish and banana leaves releases an irresistible fragrance that tantalizes the taste buds. While Sata can still be enjoyed after refrigeration, it is best savored hot and fresh immediately after grilling.
Sata has gained popularity beyond Terengganu and has spread to neighbouring states, particularly Kelantan and Pahang, as well as throughout the country. You can find these delightful fish cakes at night markets and select Malay restaurants. Some supermarkets even offer frozen Sata for convenience. Nowadays, high-end restaurants and hotels are also serving Sata to their customers, providing them with an opportunity to experience this unique local Malaysian culinary delight.