Sata: The Traditional Skewered Fish Cake from Terengganu
Sata (also known as Satar or Satah) is a traditional fish cake from Terengganu that is wrapped into pyramid shape with banana leaves. The word “sata” means straight. It refers to its grilling method where several pyramids are skewered on to bamboo sticks in a straight line. Sata is mainly made from fish meat (usually sardines), grated coconut, ginger, onions, chillies and other herbs and spices like black pepper, lemongrass etc.
It is believed that in the past, fishermen from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia caught a lot of sardines but did not have a freezer to store the excess fish. They did not want to throw the fish away, so they learned to turn the fish into a variety of dishes. As coconuts are also readily available at that time, thus the combination of fish and coconut eventually produced this unique dish.
There are three main processes to make Sata – mixing, packing and grilling. The fish is first boiled and then deboned, leaving only the fish meat. The fish meat is then pounded into a paste and mixed with ingredients mentioned above with some salt and sugar. The spiced fish paste is packed into banana leaves and folded into tiny pyramids. The pyramids are then skewered and grilled on hot coals until cooked. During grilling, the spiced fish and the banana leaves produce a mouth-watering fragrance that is hard to resist. Although it remains tasty after storing in a fridge, it is best eaten hot immediately after grilling.
Sata has spread to neighbouring states (especially Kelantan and Pahang), and throughout the country. You could find these tasty fish cakes at night markets and some Malay restaurants. There are also frozen Sata sold in supermarkets. Now some of the high-end restaurants and hotel also serve Sata to their customers to enjoy some unique local Malaysian food.