It seems that in every culture, there exists a tradition of grilling meats over an open flame and then serving the meat with an accompanying sauce. Each world region has their own brand of this practice and in the United States it is most commonly called barbecue. Southeast Asia calls their grilled meat Satay and the term Shashlik is used throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Despite the geographical location, there are certain similarities between Shashlik and all of these dishes that highlight the way that humans everywhere think about food in general and grilled meat in particular. In the case of Satay and Shashlik, there are a number of similar preparation methods and flavors that make most eaters think that they probably originated from the same place.
One of the obvious similarities between Satay and Shashlik is how the meat is prepared. Both the Satay and Shashlik cultures have deciding that marinating the meat will yield the best flavors and the marinades in both regions are usually made from acidic liquids, such as fruit juice, vinegar, or a dry wine. One difference between the marination of the grilled meats is the time that is usually spent on this process. With Shashlik, the marination time is usually for at least 12 hours, while the marination for Satay is usually accomplished in only a few hours.
Another similarity between the Satay and Shashlik skewers is how they are sold. For both dishes, they can be found in restaurants, but the more common way to get a fresh skewer is from food stands located directly on the street. Both Satay and Shashlik have become an integral part of the street food culture in their respective regions and are an excellent way for a person to pick up a tasty snack when they are in a hurry. The street food grills that are used to make Shashlik have the special name of mangal. These long Shashlik grills are a way to display and cook many meats at the same time in front of the customer.
A difference between Satay and Shashlik skewers is the accompanying items. For Satay, the most common addition is a dipping sauce that is made to perfectly match the flavors of the meat skewer. On the other hand, Shashlik skewers rarely come with a separate dipping sauce. Instead, the Shashlik skewers are usually served with vegetables that have been grilled at the same time as the meats, sometimes even on the same skewer. These vegetables on the Shashlik skewers add a variation to the standard meat taste. Whether a person’s preference tends toward the Satay or Shashlik skewers, it is easy to see why these street food options have become so popular throughout the world.