Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thai Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Relish

I was first introduced to Satay shortly after I married my husband. His parents were living in Berlin, Germany at the time, and we were visiting from the states. They took us to a wonderful Thai restaurant that had a very lavender interior. I ordered a yummy peanut chicken. It seemed the oddest thing at the time, but I liked it very much. That was my first exposure to peanuts being eaten as anything other than peanut butter, roasted peanuts, or in candy.

Since then, every time Sean and I go to a Thai restaurant, we always order their Satay. It is usually served as an appetizer with woefully few cucumbers.

I started looking in books for recipes. I ran across a book called Real Thai : The best of Thailand's Regional Cooking by Nancy McDermott, in the local library. The Satay recipe in this book is the one I have used now for years. I haven't made any of the other recipes in the book, but they are probably good too! Her recipe calls for pork (Moo Satay). You can use any meat you want. I have used pork and chicken and both are equally excellent.

I really didn't like the marinade given for the meat, so I use something different (see previous post). Deal with it. Also, this dish is not traditionally served with rice, but when I make it for dinner, we eat it with rice. I make no apologies to the Thai's for this grave error. I like it this way and I'm not going to change.

Oh yeah, a word about Thai Curry Paste. You can make your own or buy pre-made paste in the oriental store. I buy mine. This stuff is very spicy hot. I usually use a little less than a tablespoon in this Satay recipe. Get to know your paste before you commit to 2 full tablespoons.

One more thing. This recipe seems like it has too much liquid and will be really runny. But there is something about the mixture of peanut butter and coconut milk. When its heated, it thickens nicely. Don't overcook it or the oil in the peanut butter will separate out. Just cook it gently until its nice and thick. I have made this sauce with Jiffy style peanut butter, homemade peanut butter (I crushed the peanuts myself) and all natural peanut butter. I prefer it with either homemade or all natural peanut butter.

Now, for the best peanut sauce recipe in the world!

Thai Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup coconut milk
Up to 2 tablespoons Red Curry Paste
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (I use smooth too. I like it either way)
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Tamarind liquid or lime juice (I've always used lime juice)
3 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar (I usually use brown sugar)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I know it stinks, but put it in anyway! Just do it!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Warm the coconut milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, heat the milk until it reaches a gentle boil and tiny beads of oil glisten on the surface, about 5 minutes. Add curry paste and stir occasionally until it dissolves into the milk and releases its fragrances, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter, chicken stock and sugar and cook gently until the sauce is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and season with lime juice, fish sauce and salt. Taste and adjust for a pleasing balance of sweet, sour and salty. Cool to room temperature.

Now on to the relish:

I love this relish! The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons chopped purple onion, but I love the onion so much that I just slice 'em big and put in plenty. Yum! You could easily cut back if you can't stomach that much onion (what's wrong with you!?).

I never worry about the chopped peanuts, to be honest. I never have them on hand and it just isn't a big deal to me, especially since I always eat this with the peanut sauce.

Traditionally, when this is served with the Satay, the relish is always freshly combined. They don't let the cucumbers sit in the vinegar and turn into pickles. I love it both ways. So I make plenty so I have leftovers and I can eat some the next day. By then they have a nice, sweet pickled flavor.

Cucumber Relish

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh hot chili, chopped, or thai chili paste
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lg. hothouse cucumber or 2 regular cucumbers
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts

Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve. Cool to room temperature. Just before serving time, peel cucumbers, slice them crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Combine the cucumbers with the vinegar dressing, onion, and chilis. Top with peanuts and cilantro.

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