À votre satay

The Satay Brothers hawk delicious Southeast Asian street treats at their Atwater Market stand.


Until the City of Montreal revises its policy on the matter, the closest thing we have to street food are the few seasonal outdoor snack stands at the public markets. One such stand, which opened last year at the Atwater market, is called Satay Brothers. It serves skewer-grilled meats and other Southeast Asian treats.

To most of us here in the west, the term “satay” invokes grilled chicken with peanut sauce. In fact, the term covers a whole gamut of grilled goodies in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. A satay can just as well be made of pork, beef, goat, mutton, fish or even tofu. While peanut sauces are the most common condiment, pineapple and cucumber based sauces are apparently not uncommon.

Indeed, this spectrum of meat and sauce possibilities can be seen at the Satay Brothers’ stand, where the selection of skewers changes on a regular basis. On the day of my visit, they were offering a pork satay with a peanut sauce ($2.50 each, three for $7). As the portion of meat on each stick is fairly small (about the size of a breakfast sausage), I ordered a set of three.

My set of deep brown, glistening skewers came with a slightly sweet, coarsely textured peanut sauce. The pork had developed a sort of leathery but easily yielding skin, which was pleasingly sweet and salty. Inside, the meat was very moist and tender. The delicate peanut sauce gently complemented the pork’s flavour and provided a delightful temperature and texture counterpoint.

The same pork satay was also available in the sandwich of the day, which my lunch companion ordered ($6). Two skewers garnished with a tangy slaw came in a sweet, moist yet crispy skinned bun. It was a most agreeable sandwich, both in term of flavour and texture. Nonetheless, I personally preferred eating the skewers on their own.

We also ordered some steamed buns (one for $4, two for $7). The smooth, pale, pancake shaped buns were folded in a half, like a taco, and laden with goodies that included a piece of not-too-fatty pork belly, hoisin sauce, and cilantro. The buns themselves had a wonderfully moist and slightly chewy texture, which contrasted nicely with the toothsome slab pork belly. So succulent were these morsels that we immediately wanted more.

We balanced all the pork out with an order of green papaya salad ($6). We were presented with a generous mound of the shredded, light green papaya flesh—more than enough for two people. The papaya was tossed with a measured amount of chopped chili pepper and a slightly acidic and salty dressing (with lime juice and fish sauce, I suspect) and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. I enjoyed the salad more than my companion, who found the (deliberately) unripe fruit a touch bitter for his taste. Personally, I found the salad to be most invigorating on a hot, mid-June day.

For dessert, the brothers offer a Malaysian specialty called kueh (pronounced quay), made by none other than the Queen of Kueh—their mother. Kueh are a diverse range of dessert cakes that are usually steamed rather than baked, giving them a texture quite distinct from the baked western pastries. There were two types of available the day I visited, kueh salat and kueh benka ($3 each). The bright, almost fluorescent green salat is made of rice, coconut cream, and something called pandan—apparently an aromatic leaf. The deep yellow benka is made with tapioca and grated coconut. Both cakes were dense, very moist, and not too sweet. My companion and I both preferred the more fragrant and unusual tasting kueh salat, though I can’t say we had much difficulty eating the kueh benka.

The brothers will most certainly be seeing my face again in the near future. I am curious about their purportedly very aromatic laksa soup, and I wouldn’t mind sampling some other types of satay.

Don’t miss the window of opportunity to try the Satay Brothers delicious treats, as I regrettably did last year—they’re open only May through October. The stand is located under the canopy on the north side of the market. There are several picnic tables at which you can enjoy your snack.

Satay Brothers

Address: 138 Atwater
Phone: 514-661-6983
Web: www.sataybrothers.com
Hours: MON 10:30 am - 6 pm, THU & FRI 10:30 am - 9 pm, SAT & SUN 10:30 am – 5 pm
Best features: Steamed bun with pork.
Alcohol: No.
Wheelchair Access: Yes.
Vegetarian friendly: No.
Credit cards: No.
Price: Lunch $5-15 per person.
Rating: ***1/2 out of ****

NOTE: New permanent location at 3911 Saint-Jacques (Jan. 21, 2013)

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