my flux capacitor

If I could travel back in time with a flux capacitor (in Back to the Future style), I would set the dial to September 8, 2007, our honeymoon in Wellington, New Zealand.
First, I would visit the Satay Kitchen in downtown Wellington, a restaurant tucked inside an alleyway of shops. D and I arrived there through a series of hilarious misadventures, all leading back to a plateful of day-glow yellow vegetable curry and spicy peanut sauce.
We flew from Auckland to Wellington that morning. It was a short flight, just under an hour. At the airport, we found a shuttle to drive us to the cheapest youth hostel listed in the Lonely Planet guide.

view from the hostel on the hill

“Where to,” the driver asked.
“The hostel on the hill,” I said, “it’s listed in the Lonely Planet.”
I waved the book in the air. He peered at me through the rear view mirror.
“Are you sure that’s where you want to go,” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” I said.
“I mean, wouldn’t you rather stay at the International hostel. It’s in the center of the city and the museum is right across the street,” he said.
“No, the one on the hill will be fine,” I said, “the reviews say it’s great for the price.”
He dropped us at the hostel. We checked into a room with bunk beds. The shared bathroom facilities were down the hall from our room. This was our honeymoon after all and adventure was at the top of my list.

outside the hostel on the hill

The room was on the second floor. It possessed a particular aroma, one that had been curing for years in the low pile carpet, curtains, mattresses, and linens. A ghastly combination of mold, mildew, and sweat.
“I think we need a little air,” I said.
I opened the window looking over the fire escape. D and I sat on the edge.
“Maybe incense would help,” he said.
A plaque next to the door read “Absolutely no smoking or lighting candles or matches under any circumstances.”
We dropped our bags and left to find a smoke shop. We bought a box of Nag Champa incense and a lighter. Before we left the store, I asked the clerk if he knew of any good Thai or Malaysian restaurants. He gave us directions to The Satay Kitchen, singing it’s praises of brilliant and fast food as if he were at a pulpit made of glass and inside it held hand-blown glass pipes and ceramic cigarettes.
We thanked him and ate the best satay I’ve ever eaten, curried vegetables and rice in a bath of spicy peanut sauce before we returned to the hostel.

The Satay Kitchen

We lit a stick of incense with an open window, feeling like two teenagers lighting up behind the football stadium on a Saturday night. Smoke swirled in the air and drifted out to the city.

the neighbors

We sat on the ledge and after several minutes looked at each other and in unison said, “Let’s get out of here.”

We booked a ferry reservation for Picton on the south island, scheduled to leave later that evening and checked out. The clerk at the desk stared at us in amazement when we told her we couldn’t stay due to the stench in the room.

ferry to Picton

“Allergies,” I explained, “I’m allergic to mold and dust.”
In hindsight, I think it was more about having a honeymoon adventure, you know bunk beds can be romantic too, than it was about saving a few dollars on a night in the city.
The January 2010 DC Challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

tofu satay with peanut sauce

For my challenge, I substituted tofu for pork and made the peanut sauce for dipping. The satay was good enough to make me want to build my own DeLorean time machine equipped with a flux capacitor to travel back in time, although it simply cannot compare to The Satay Kitchen’s fare.

peanut sauce with tofu satay

Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce

Satay Marinade

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped (optional) (2 cm cubed)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ground coriander (5 mls)
1 tsp ground cumin (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (2-2.5 mls)
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (30 mls)
1 pound of tofu

Feeling the need to make it more Thai? Try adding a dragon chili, an extra tablespoon of ginger root, and 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz or 15 mls) of fish sauce. (I keep some premature (still green) dragon chili peppers in the freezer for just such an occasion.)

1a. Cheater alert: If you have a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the tofu and blend until smooth. Lacking a food processor, I prefer to chop my onions, garlic and ginger really fine then mix it all together in a medium to large bowl.
2a. Cut pork into 1 inch strips.
3a. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.
Faster (cheaper!) marinade:

2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (1 oz or 30 mls)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ginger powder (5 mls)
1 tsp garlic powder (5 mls)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (5 mls)
1b. Mix well.
2b. Cut tofu into 1 inch thick strips (2-2.5 cm thick), any length.
3b. Cover tofu with marinade. You can place the tofu into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.
Cooking Directions (continued):
4. If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak your skewers in warm water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers.
5. Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.*
6. Broil or grill at 290°C/550° F (or pan fry on medium-high) for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 8-10 minutes.
* If you’re grilling or broiling, you could definitely brush once with extra marinade when you flip the skewers.

Peanut Sauce

3/4 cup coconut milk (6 oz or 180 mls)
4 Tbsp peanut butter (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (2.5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (2.5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)

1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.
2. Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often.
3. All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

Pepper Dip (optional)

4 Tbsp soy sauce (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp brown sugar (5 mls)
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (keep the seeds for heat)
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)

Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Tamarind Dip (optional)

4 Tbsp tamarind paste (helpful link below) (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)
1 tsp brown or white sugar, or to taste (about 5 mls)

Mix well. Serve chilled or room temperature.


  1. cuppy says

    I'm happy to take you back, although I don't think I could ever duplicate the scent of that room for you. *bow*

    Your tofu looks perfectly charred and yummy! What great pictures!

    With such a fond memory of satay, I am amazed and equally flattered that you would complete this challenge. ^_^

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