Been to Malacca before? If you have, I’m sure you have heard of satay celup! It is a dish that has been around since the mid-1950’s, and its popularity has grown with time. This dish is a favourite among locals and tourist alike.
What is satay celup?
Satay celup or steamboat satay is a unique Malaccan signature dish. When we talk about satay, it is often referred to as small pieces of meat marinated in spices on a bamboo skewer that is grilled over a charcoal fire. You then dip the meat into a spicy peanut sauce before eating it.
The only similarity satay celup shares with the traditional satay is the peanut sauce. The word celup basically means immerse into a liquid. Hence, you can infer that satay celup refers to food that is skewered and dipped into a peanut sauce.
It is obvious that satay celup is the product of an assimilation of the traditional satay and lok-lok. The latter is a popular roadside snack introduced by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century. At such pushcarts, you will find patrons congregating around a small boiling pot waiting for their picks of their favourite choices on skewers before dipping them into either a chilli or sweet sauce, or perhaps even combining both sauces.
Satay celup brings the best of these both worlds to us, and that is apt for its origins to be Malacca. After all, Malacca was the melting pot of Malaysia. During its heyday as the entrepôt of Southeast Asia, more than 80 languages have been recorded to be in use there. It must have truly been a cosmopolitan in its own right back then. It is therefore, not unusual for a marriage of cultures in their food. Satay celup is probably one of the outcomes of such assimilation.
Ban Lee Siang
There are a handful of places in Malacca where you can find good satay celup. One of them is Ban Lee Siang. Located along Jalan Ong Kim Wee, it opens mid afternoon, from 3 p.m. onwards. When I got there at 3.30 p.m., the restaurant was already running at almost capacity. There were only two tables empty.
You basically help yourself to the skewers which are all placed in the refrigerators to keep them all fresh. In the middle of the table will be the pot filled to the brim with spicy peanut sauce. The sauce is also a bit sweet. What you do is basically pick whatever skewers that you fancy and dip them into the boiling sauce. It is good to eat once it is cooked as the flavours of the sauce would have settled on and in the food.
You have a wide variety of meats, vegetables, seafood and processed food. At Ban Lee Siang, there are over 50 choices of skewers for you to pick. If you want to get the full flavours of the sauce you can try the kangkung or water spinach. The skewered spinach is spun into balls. The sauce gets trapped in among the tendrils of the spinach and lends its flavour to the vegetable as you bite into it. Water spinach with spicy sauce is always nice.
Another one of their worth mentioning food is the stewed pig’s ears. This one is nice enough on its own, but a quick dip into the peanut sauce gives it an added oomph. Truly one of the nicer stewed pig ears I have taken in a while. The rest of the choices, such as pig’s intestines, crab stick and the others, were okay with the sauce.
Most people order a barley drink (RM1.60) to go with the satay celup. Being a spicy food, barley is believed to help combat the heatiness caused by the spices. However, most of the young people were seen downing cans of coke with their food.
At RM1.30 per stick, satay celup is also a reflection of the rising costs that are plaguing Malaysia post-pandemic. The effects of the pandemic shut down Capitol, a noteworthy satay celup restaurant in Nov 2021, after being in business for slightly over 30 years.
Ban Lee Siang is one of the remaining worthwhile satay celup places left in Malacca.
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80%: Price (value for money)
80%: Overall Rating
Open daily from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM
(Closed on Wednesdays)