Sunday, February 6, 2011

Satay Sauce with a Touch of Fire

Not one to be easily discouraged by my own tastebuds and refusing to believe that I no longer like shrimp (at least not all that much) I gave in to the roommate's request and made shrimp tacos for dinner last night. I managed to eat two but when I tried a shrimp on its own I spit it out. Spit it out! I think my tastebuds have made an exchange of shrimp for mushrooms and can't help but feel cheated. I mean, I am glad I now like mushrooms, but at the expense of beautiful, delicious shrimp? It's just not fair.

A woeful state, I know, but fortunately my love for peanuts is still going strong. Salted, honey-roasted, chili; butter, brittle sauce: I love peanuts in any form. I am eating some chili-coated peanuts right now. I once had a Slovenian try to convince me that peanut butter is, really, actually, quite disgusting, but he did not understand both the deep love Americans have for goobers and my own personal dedication to that modest little nut. I eat peanut butter straight from the jar (having no need for bread or crackers as a vehicle) and, if given the chance, will do the same withe satay sauce because, really, actually, it is warm, spicy peanut butter that happens to go well with noodles rather than strawberry jelly.

For the past few years when I wanted satay sauce I would scoop out a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter, mix it with some soy sauce, garlic, chili paste and water, then stir it into my drained ramen noodles. Not haute cuisine, but it solved its purpose. Fortunately I now have a Thai cookbook that includes an incredibly delicious and easy satay sauce recipe. I admit the title of this post may be misleading, as I choose to add over a tablespoon of red chili paste to my sauce because I enjoy feeling the faintest hint of sweat with my satay; you can, of course, reduce the amount to your taste. There is some effort involved in mixing the yellow curry powder, though if you have a grinder then the effort is minimal. You are then left with an ample amount of a Thai curry blend that works well in Thai-style chicken soup, sprinkled over fish before baking or broiling, or spread on quails that you can then eat with your satay sauce. Peanut win.

Peanut Sauce (Naam Sa-te)
The Food of Thailand

2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 Asian shallots, finely chopped (French shallots may be substituted)
1 lemon grass stalk, white part only, finely chopped
2tsp Thai curry powder
1tbsp tamarind puree
1tbsp chili paste
1cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 1/2cups coconut milk
1tsp palm sugar (brown sugar may be substituted)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a saucepan fry the garlic, shallots and lemon grass for a minute. Add the Thai curry powder and stir until fragrant.

2. Add remaining ingredients and bring slowly to the boil. Add enough boiling water to make a spoonable sauce (I didn't need to add any) and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Thai Curry Powder (Phong Karii)

1tbsp black peppercorns
2tsp white peppercorns
1tbsp cloves
3tbsp coriander seeds
3tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp fennel seeds
seeds from 8 cardamom pods
3tbsp dried chili flakes
2tbsp ground ginger
3tbsp ground turmeric

1. Dry-roast the peppercorns, cloves, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, doing one ingredient at a time, in a frying pan over a low heat until fragrant.

2. Transfer to a spice grinder or pestle & mortar and grind to a powder. Add remaining ingredients and grind together. Store in an airtight container. Makes 1/2 cup.

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