Satti: A spicy delicacy for breakfast

Amir Mawallil

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Satti: A spicy delicacy for breakfast
The dish is enjoyed by many people in various islands in Mindanao

Satti is a breakfast delicacy of the people in the island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu. This dish invigorates the spirit and stirs the soul, and it is a good treat when you wake up on a rainy day. 

I grew up eating satti for breakfast in Tawi-Tawi, and it is a staple of my childhood memories. When I think of satti, I think of the island’s climate, the sea’s waves, and the warmth of home. In my adolescence, I’d look forward to my breakfast of satti when I was away. And then I’d indulge in it when I got home. Now, when I go home to the islands after my travels, I still look for this comfort food when I wake up in the morning on my first day back. 

Some compare satti to the Southeast Asian satay, there might be some similarities in the origin of both dishes, but the island people of the Philippines have definitely made it their own. Satti has a red sauce and rice. The meat skewers are set in the center. This dish has its own identity in our island cuisine, and integrity of its own as a local favorite.

In Zamboanga City, satti is enjoyed by all: It is is a dish eaten by everyone from all social classes — entrepreneurs and young professionals, teachers and students, among others. It’s cheap, and easy to find in satti houses local to Western Mindanao. 

Satti is made of beef and chicken strips and livers on skewers that are grilled and put on top of a sweet and spicy red sauce. Satti is served with rice molded into cubes and set on coconut leaves beside the meat sauce. You can combine the rice and sauce.

The main ingredients – beef, chicken or chicken livers – are spiced with turmeric, curry, pepper and garlic, but the preparation of satti does differ from place to place. There might be coriander in some versions of satti, or lemongrass in others.

Satti, for the Tausug, is a breakfast food, though you can have it for lunch and dinner as well. The sauce is the secret to this dish, and the taste of this sauce will vary slightly from one place to another. 

Satti houses, as they’re called, dot the island provinces of Western Mindanao and Zamboanga City. Everyone who’s ever been to these places know they can find a satti house nearby. —


Amir Mawallil is the author of A Constant Retelling: Exploring the Bangsamoro Narratives, and worked as the public information director of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Amir is an avid foodie and a frustrated chef, who has traveled all of Mindanao in search of local culinary wonders. 

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