Peanut sauce – a little sweet, a little crunchy, and exactly how we like it
Peanut sauce, or kuah kacang, is truly satay’s perfect mate. These yummy skewers of barbecued meat, which has become popular the world over, just would not be the same without a generous accompaniment of this thick, somewhat sweet and crunchy peanut sauce. But this dish is way more than a satay side dish – excellent peanut sauce is a star in its own right that also goes great with nasi impit, lemang and lodeh, making it a must have at almost every single Eid open house featuring these dishes (where satay is normally absent, by the way).
Despite its simple list of ingredients and recipe, peanut sauce is something not a lot of places seem to get right, especially at restaurants. We’ve had our fair share of watered down sauces, or those that hardly even have a single chew. And what about those places (mostly overseas, thank goodness) or recipes who desecrate such an important dish by using peanut butter?
We are here to set things straight. Yes, making peanut sauce requires some forethought – you need to prepare the main ingredient one night in advance, for example – so it’s not one of those dishes you can whip up at the last minute. But, if you follow the fairly easy steps below we are certain you can banish subpar peanut sauce for the rest of your life… when you’re making it yourself, that is.
- 800g raw peanuts, shells and skin removed
- 700g red onions, finely cut
- 27g galangal, cut small
- 12g lemongrass, roots only
- 61g rehydrated & blended chilies (cili boh)
- 105g coconut sugar (gula Melaka)
- 26g belacan
- 2 tbsp tamarind pulp mixed with ¾ cup water
- 1 cup cooking oil
Peanut preparation – the night before
- Start your peanut prep the night or evening before you plan to make peanut sauce. On a dry tray, roast peanuts at 180°C in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your peanuts.
- Once roasted and slightly cooled, used a food processor and pulse your peanuts to a medium coarseness. It’s ok if some of the peanuts are slightly finer or chunkier.
- Transfer crushed peanuts into a large bowl and pour water. Allow for a 5cm clearance of water above the peanuts. Let peanuts soak covered overnight in a cool, dry place.
- Prepare the rest of your ingredients. Roast belacan in a flat dry pan until brown.
- Blend galangal, lemongrass and belacan with a little bit of water until smooth.
- In a large pot, heat oil on high heat then fry the blended mixture and cili boh until it no longer looks wet or watery.
- Add onions and continue to stir and fry until it reduces to half the amount and the onions have caramelized. Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally to ensure the onions do not stick and burn. You’ll want most of the onions to disintegrate.
- Add coconut sugar and stir or crush to melt. You can also grate the coconut sugar before putting it into the pot so it melts faster.
- When the coconut sugar has melted, pour in soaked peanuts, including the liquids. Stir to mix thoroughly.
- Pour tamarind water into a strainer over the pot and squeeze the pulp to remove all the yummy juices.
- Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes or until the larger chunk of peanuts are soft.
I can’t find peeled peanuts!
Pre-peeled peanuts are a blessing as it significantly reduces prep time. However, if your local supermarket and market are all out, don’t freak out. You can still use unpeeled, deshelled peanuts. Give yourself two or three extra hours though and follow these easy steps:
- After roasting your peanuts at peanut preparation step 1 above, leave it on the tray and let it cool slightly to avoid burning your hands.
- Using clean and dry hands, start rubbing small handfuls of peanuts between your palms and fingers and the skin will easily come off. There will be a few stubborn ones. Don’t worry too much about them.
- There will be a build-up of peanut skin trying to get everywhere. Lightly toss the peanuts in a tray or basket and blow the skin away. You can also use a fan. This can get seriously messy though so if you only have space indoors, do this over a large empty sink. If you have space outdoors, it’s ok to have peanut skin settle over your grass.
- Hack! We discovered this trick for peeling peanuts involving a clean and dry plastic water bottle, a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner. As we haven’t tried it for ourselves just yet, let us know how it goes if you decide to test it out! We reckon this trick will work best after the peanuts have been roasted.
- The finer the cut of your red onions, the faster it will disintegrate while cooking. Be prepared for teary eyes.
- You can also mix red and yellow onions to cut down on the sweetness.
- Excess oil may rise to the surface once the peanut sauce has cooled and the heavier parts of the sauce have settled. Use a dry flat spoon or ladle to scoop out and remove excess oil, but leave some behind so the sauce doesn’t get too dry.
Try this recipe if you’re game to make peanut sauce at home. You’ll definitely impress yourself with how easy it was to make something so authentically delicious. Warning, you may insist you’ll only want to eat home cooked peanut sauce from now on though! Don’t forget to share a pic of your hard work by hashtagging us with #butterkicap.