How Malaysia Airlines makes those amazing satay sticks

How Malaysia Airlines makes those amazing satay sticks

It's the highly praised signature dish of Malaysia Airlines – delicious satay sticks served in business and first class to passengers who more often than not request a second helping.

It's also one of the best inflight meals we've ever had, perhaps due in equal parts to its authenticity and simplicity.

Australian Business Traveller went behind the scenes of at Malaysia Airline's catering facility to see how these inflight delights make their way from kitchen to cabin.

Satay is among around 30,000 meals prepared each day by Brahim’s Airline Catering, and their popularity means that as many as 26,000 satay sticks are cooked daily, along with 200 litres of the rich peanut sauce.

Even the satay served on flights to Kuala Lumpur is prepared in this kitchen.

The satay sticks use beef and chicken tenderloin cuts marinated in a mix of shallots, turmeric, garlic, lemongrass and galangal.

As you can see, the chunks are threaded by hand onto wooden skewers...

... and then cooked in the traditional method on an open charcoal grill...

... with staff fanning the flames to keep a consistent heat.

Once cooked to 60 degrees, the sticks are loaded quickly moved to a refrigeration unit where the temperature is quickly dropped to below five degrees.

But they don't stay there for long – within 12 hours they're loaded onto a flight and served up to eager travellers with generous dollops of that morish sauce.

And yes, on the flight home from KL to Sydney we ordered seconds.

Also read: Malaysia Airlines partners with Poh for Nyonya Chicken Curry

David Flynn travelled to Kuala Lumpur as a guest of Malaysia Airlines.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • TheRealBabushka


    26 Nov, 2014 02:06 pm

    Thanks David.

    What's that red thing at the end of each chicken skewer (2nd and 3rd picture from the top)? Is it a piece of capsicum? Is that what they use to keep each skewer moist?

    Or is that not a satay at all but some sort of kebab?

    The satay served on board is just gorgeous...moist and succulent!

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  • Chris O'Neill


    26 Nov, 2014 02:49 pm

    i wish they would hand out a spoon when serving these, the sauce is the best part!

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  • David Flynn


    26 Nov, 2014 03:12 pm

    Chris, that's so true - several fellow travellers on my trip made the same observation, a shame for all that sauce to go to watse – although I would opt for a lovely roti to soak up the sauce!

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  • TheRealBabushka


    26 Nov, 2014 03:33 pm

    Ask for one! I always do!

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  • moa999


    26 Nov, 2014 03:17 pm

    Can you get their sauce recipie !

    Must also say that Air Asia also does a great little satay skewers as well with the compressed rice-  need to preorder it though

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  • sagidec


    26 Nov, 2014 03:30 pm

    I could just eat that as a meal rather than snacks.

    I had second or third, but who's counting... helping too in J class...

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  • eminere


    26 Nov, 2014 05:40 pm

    I always ask for seconds. They rival SQ's imho.

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  • Ken Walker


    2 Sep, 2017 09:18 pm

    Could never get enough of these.
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  • THR


    3 Sep, 2017 10:47 am

    Personally thought they were quite average on a recent return flight to KL. Nowhere near as good as SQ's. 
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  • AlexTravAddict


    3 Sep, 2017 08:19 pm

    Great pics and looks delicious. However, I flew KL-Langkawi-KL last month in Business and the food was shocking on both flights (inedible and amongst the worst food I've ever had on a flight). On the other hand I flew KL-Bangkok and used the Malaysia Airlines First Class lounge in the satellite terminal (which I didn't realise even existed) which was absolutely superb. I was there during a quite period when there was probably 10 people in the entire lounge. The staff, service, and a la carte dining were outstanding (definitely a notch above my experiences in Qantas' First Lounges). Let's hope the lounge they are currently renovating in the main terminal is as good.
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  • loopflyer


    4 Sep, 2017 09:37 am

    Hah, flew MH J back in July KUL-SYD on their red-eye flight. Had the Satay and can vouch for their goodness, tastiness; also had seconds.
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  • Joe


    4 Sep, 2017 11:10 am

    The ceiling in the kitchen photo's doesn't install much confidence hygiene wise. Those tiles are falling leaving gaps which dust or anything else, living or innate can get through?
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  • elchriss0


    4 Sep, 2017 12:38 pm

    I was also questioning their hygiene...they don't even wear the masks properly covering both mouth and nose.  I wonder if SQ employee better hygiene in their kitchens than MH.
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  • Joe


    5 Sep, 2017 04:14 pm

    *......instil confidence....
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  • Yvan J Drake


    4 Sep, 2017 11:51 am

    You mentioned the ones served on the way TO KL are prepared there as well, presumably they ship outbound on the aircraft, and then back.. That could lead to some interesting issues refrigeration wise.. 
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  • Kin Ho


    4 Sep, 2017 06:15 pm


    I "think I can" have the whole tray as in the pics to myself :p
    My last J flight with MH was Feb 2016, and I thought they had the rice cake which goes well with the sauce. No sauce wastage in my case. 
    I got some put aside for my family for breakfast as they wanted to sleep soon after takeoff. Needless to say, I had 2 helpings, on both services. ;-)
    Thank you MH cabin crews.
    "Personally thought they were quite average on a recent return flight to KL. Nowhere near as good as SQ's. "
    I will try the SQ satay if they still serve them by the time I fly another J class with them in Feb 2018.
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  • Andrew McNicol


    5 Sep, 2017 03:56 pm

    Absolutely loved the satay sticks and the rest of the menu was pretty good also.  Recently flew KUL-NRT return and was highly impressed with the food compared to the often peculiar Rockpool fare on QF.
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18 Jul, 2019 01:23 am


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