Once or twice a year when grandpa received his monthly salary, grandma would ask me and Kak Fuzi to sit at the tembok and wait for the Wak Satay to pass by. In most cases he would pass by the junction near our house around 4.00pm. Whenever I was summoned by grandma for this purpose, both Kak Fuzi and me would shout and dance just like those Red Indians dancing around the fire and soon Kak Shidah and Kak Arah would join in the dance to make it more lively. We were about to have a grand feast of satay and ketupat (boiled rice cake stuffed inside a small container made of coconut leaves) and to be served by the Wak Satay himself right here in our house. That day Mak Yang our maid-servant was in a dilemma because at 4.00pm, the continuation of ‘bangsawan di udara’ to be aired over the radio was at its final episode and missing that important episode would drive her crazy and so she had to make a choice; stay glued at the radio or miss the lovely hot and grilled satay. I knew anyway what was in her mind.
It was around 3.30pm and the four of us were already at the tembok waiting anxiously for the arrival of the Wak Satay. Earlier we had just shunned the kacang putih seller who was quite surprised at our sudden show of arrogance of not even looking at him when he passed by. Even the ice-cream seller looked disappointed when we just stared at him and not even responding to his wide grin.
“Aku nak makan dua puloh cucuk” (I want to eat twenty sticks), Kak Fuzi said while showing her two fingers up high. Kak Arah was still dancing but this time something like that Gangnam Style while Kak Shidah sat with her eyes very much focused towards the junction where the Wak Satay would definitely passed by very shortly. The mid-fifties were the early years when the four of us truly made our lives worth living. We had no problems and we had only two worries. The first worry was that notorious dog who would always sleep at the front portion of the Chinese house few doors away from ours making it difficult for us to go to the mamak sundry shop whenever grandma wanted some ingredients for her cooking. However, in most cases we managed to pass through whenever we chanted the ‘tabatyadah’ and the dog would just stare at us. So that was quite a minor worry. The second worry was during sleeping time. We always wondered whether the ghosts were watching us somewhere on top of the ceiling. Since we had never seen any ghosts, we were quite comfortable for the ghosts to just watch us as long as they would not appear in person. So practically we had no real worries.
It was a bright sunny afternoon but we were not perturbed by the blazing sun because in just a few minutes the Wak Satay would surely appear at the junction. It was almost 4.00pm and Kak Fuzi had increased her desire to eat twenty sticks to twenty five. Kak Arah was not dancing any longer and was squatting under the rambutan tree silently while Kak Shidah and me were already at the roadside anticipating the appearance of the Wak Satay any minute.
Ten minutes later the Wak Satay appeared carrying two baskets with each hung at both end of a pole that he shouldered. The four of us began shouting ‘satay, satay’ and when he heard and noticed us, he took a turn and headed towards us. It must be quite heavy as I could see he was like limping. Immediately I ran inside the house to inform grandma that we all could have our satay feast now. Mak Yang was already beside the radio listening to the final episode of a very interesting ‘sandiwara’.
Our house is a two-storey wooden bungalow and most of our daily activities were conducted downstairs. Wak Jis and Mak Yang had their own room downstairs with both rooms occupying almost half of the whole area. When I reached the age of seven, I joined Wak Jis together in the same room and later alone when Wak Jis left home to work in Pontian. The satay feast was held at the other half of the area downstairs.
When the Wak Satay reached our house, all of us had gathered at one corner facing the back entrance. The Wak Satay took his position and began preparing all the necessary tools and setting up the fire inside the small oblong metal and started to fan the fire using his own made rattan fan. All of us children were squatting around him and as the fire began to grow, the smoke too became more thicker and he was ready to grill the satay.
Satay during the mid-fifties cost five cents per stick irrespective whether it was beef or mutton. There wasn’t any chicken satay during my time not until in the mid-sixties when the price of chicken was affordable. The gravy is made up mainly of coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar and some grated onions.
Inside the house Mak Yang was alone still glued to the radio and she began to feel very uneasy when the satay aroma filled the air. Those days, there wasn’t any advertisement slots and so she could not move around to do other jobs otherwise she might miss some important and exciting scene. On few occasions her face turned blue for not wanting to go to the toilet.
The Wak Satay began cutting the cucumbers and the onions with his sharp knife but the center part of his knife was so worn out that it curved inside and looked like a U-turn. The satay was almost ready to be served and each one of us was already holding our own plate. Then he began cutting the ketupat into four and placed inside a basket. Grandpa and grandma were sitting on a wooden chair while Wak Jis stood behind them. Then Mak Pon and her eldest daughter Kak Bulat came to join the feast.
Kak Bulat is the eldest of Pak Mat Rippin and Mak Pon’s children followed by my three ‘sister’. Her is name is Khatijah and was very reserved during her younger days. Unlike my three ‘sisters’ who would run around the house and playing all sort of games, Kak Bulat would just stay at home doing something more important and would always be seen reading. She excelled very well in her education and finally obtained her degree at the University of Malaya. She is grandma’s first grandchild and she was extremely proud of her.
When the first twenty sticks of satay were served, they disappeared within seconds and the Wak Satay wouldn’t mind at all to keep on exercising his arm muscles. Every time when the satay were served, they just simply disappeared and this caused great concerned for Mak Yang as the ‘Sandiwara’ was reaching its height. Earlier she had made a deal with me to send her at least ten sticks together with the cucumber and the onions and in return she would gladly bring me along to see a Hindustani movie next week called ‘Mother India’. However, I could not find ten sticks available as the satay kept on disappearing whenever served. Kak Fuzi almost reached twenty sticks while the rest were equally within that range and there were many of us. Finally, I had to seek grandma’s help to keep ten sticks available for Mak Yang. When I brought the satay to her, the ‘sandiwara’ was about to end and she looked extremely happy, a good indication of a happy ending. With the ten sticks of satay delivered to her, it was a double joy for her.
Satay during my younger days in the late fifties was a real feast. We only had satay once a month or at best twice a month. Most of the satay sellers in Muar town were of the Javanese descents, the ‘Italians’ of Muar town. The most famous satay seller of my time was Wak Santano, no relation of Santana please. Another famous name was Wak Karto and one of his sons is my close friend named Medali (No, to the best of my knowledge, he has not received any medal). Medali was a playful boy during our school days and most liked by many. He is very proud of his Javanese descent. Today he owns a satay franchise with some outlets operating in the Klang Valley.
Another satay seller of a Javanese descent of my time was Tukur (arwah). Tukur was one of the most talented lead guitarist in town and he specialized in songs of the ‘The Shadows’. Together with me, we were once in a famous Muar band called ‘The Dreamers’
Another close friend of mine who used to sell satay is Abdullah and till this day he is known as Dollah Satay.
It is well known that satay is sold in Muar town in the morning and it goes well eating satay with ‘Lodeh’ (Lontong) and the ‘Mi Jawa’. Almost every restaurant in town will surely have a satay stall. During lunch time, while the ‘Mi Jawa’ will be replaced with ‘Mi Bandung’, satay will remain part of the meal. At night eating satay with ‘nasi asam pedas’ is a fine dinner among Muarian Malays.
When we finally ate the satay to our satisfaction it was almost 6.30pm and looked like we might skip dinner. Everyone was full and the Wak Satay need not work for the night. Kak Fuzi was at one corner sitting very quietly and looked very fatigued after having eaten almost thirty sticks. Kak Arah could not dance any longer and was seen massaging her stomach while Kak Shidah looked very sleepy. We had a great satay feast and we had enough satay for that day.
When dinner time, none of us felt like eating because we had too much satay. At around 8.00pm my uncle Pak Ngah (Master Ghaffar Ali) came with Mak Ram and they brought along something wrapped with the ‘daun pelepah pinang’. They bought it before coming to the house and thought to eat it together with us for dinner. When they opened the wrapped food they brought, it was satay.