THAI PEANUT SAUCE
For me, peanut sauce served as a definitive gateway flavor into what would be come a lifelong addiction to Thai cuisine. Having grown up on a steady diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it wasn’t until I first tasted the peanut sauce that accompanied my Mom’s chicken satay from the Thai spot in our mall food court that I came to realize that peanut butter could be used in savory dishes as well. To my young developing palate, peanut sauce was at once exotic and familiar. Salty, sweet and rich with warm Thai spices, the run-of-the-mill skewered chicken soon became a vehicle for what I really wanted: the sauce.
I’ve made many versions of peanut sauce over the years and have come to recognize this rendition as my go-to, all-purpose recipe. Used as a dip, tossed with rice noodles or as a condiment for jasmine rice, I’m sure you’ll find this sauce has many amazing applications. While some recipes include everything from soy sauce and grated ginger to garlic and chili sauce, this particular version gets it’s nuance and depth from aromatic Thai curry paste. Along with a few other simple yet flavorful ingredients, it’s the paste that takes this sauce to the next level and lend it that authentic taste. It goes without saying that a fresh, homemade curry paste will render an exceptionally fragrant final sauce, but if you’re strapped for time, store-bought red curry paste from a jar makes a perfectly suitable alternative.
THAI PEANUT SAUCE
Adapted from Victor Sodsook’s, True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking
This is a simple and forgiving recipe with very few ingredients that comes together quite quickly. It’s easy to adjust the final sauce to suit your own taste. Some brands of peanut butter can already be a bit sweet, so feel free to scale back the amount of brown sugar called for in the recipe. This recipe makes a rich, thick sauce that can easily be thinned out with warm water or more coconut milk if a lighter consistency is preferred. I will also sometimes add a bit of lime juice along with the fish sauce to cut through the richness for certain applications. Expect a lot of sauce, but don’t worry; it keeps well refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Finally, too high of heat during the cooking process can break the sauce, separating the oil from the rest of the ingredients. If this happens, don’t panic. Simply lower the heat and whisk the sauce vigorously to reincorporate the oil.
- 1 can (14-ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
- 6 tablespoons homemade panang, masaman or store-bought red curry paste
- 2/3 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
- 7 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Heat the coconut milk in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it has reaches a gentle boil.
- Add the curry paste and stir until well incorporated and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the peanut butter and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to low and add in the brown sugar, stirring until dissolved.
- Remove the peanut sauce from the heat and stir in the fish sauce. Thin with warm water if a lighter consistency is desired.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups