Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this was the best peanut sauce I have ever made. I really wish I had been more precise about the measurements. That’s the thing about cooking the way I do, I don’t always remember what I put in things. Oh well. Anyway, I love peanut sauce, I’ve made it a million times, each time a different way. I got smart this time though, I added the ingredient that sets peanut sauce in Thai restaurants apart from the slightly Asian flavored peanut butter we pretend is peanut sauce at home. Red curry paste. I’m the first one to leave out of recipes ingredients that are annoying and hard to find, particularly if you’re going far out of your way to get something you’ll only use once. In this case, it’s worth it. Plus, I like to look in my fridge and see a lot of jars of stuff. I find it comforting. The curry paste I bought is from Thailand, has tamarind paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, turmeric, ginger and “spice”. I would wager all the normal things are in it- garlic, Thai chilis, lemongrass, galengal, kaffir lime, etc. By the way, do not be afraid of fish sauce. Almost all of the fish sauce we come across, as not Asian Americans, is shrimp paste, which is a LOT milder than traditional southeast Asian fish sauce. To illustrate my point, here is a picture of fish sauce I saw in a market in Thailand:
In Laos, they say that if a person can dip a long bean into their fish paste and enjoy it, they are truly Lao. I tried some on some sticky rice once, I almost didn’t survive. Anyway, my point is that the fish sauce is essential to making Thai food taste Thai. You don’t taste the fish, really, it’s more of a vague, back of the tongue funk. That’s why this peanut sauce turned out so well, because the curry paste had fish sauce in it. Here’s the recipe:
1 packet rice paper salad roll wrappers
* I got these at an Asian grocery store near my house, (sidenote- if you have access to an Asian or Latino grocery store and you’re not visiting it, try it out, it will change your life) there were about 40 kinds in various Asian languages, I looked for one with the picture of what I wanted to make on it, which turned out very well.
1 packet very tiny, vermicelli-ish rice noodles
Head of baby romaine, I like the purple kind
Assorted julienned vegetables, I used carrots, radishes and green onions
Cilantro – DON’T skip this. I used to think that you could easily leave out the herbs, you can’t.
First, get all your things ready to go, because the wrappers don’t wait. Make a little dry slaw with your veggies, wash and pull apart some lettuce, get some sprigs of cilantro ready too. Put on some water to boil in your tea kettle, and when that’s ready, take a big handful of the rice noodles and stick them in a bowl, covering them with the hot water. After a few minutes, dump the noodles into a colander and rinse them with cold water. These work essentially like ramen noodles, you can use them as soon as they’re cool- but I would let them drain a bit, or squeeze them in your hand before you put them in the salad rolls.
To use the rice paper wrappers, you wet them one at a time under the tap, you don’t really need to hold it under the water very long, it’ll continue softening. When it’s wet, lay it down on a damp work surface, I used a wooden cutting board that I dribbled some water on. Lay a little bit of noodles down, about as much as you can pick up with two fingers, I’d say, then a bit of the lettuce, then a bit of the slaw, then a few sprigs of cilantro. I’d say you’re looking at 2-3 tbsp of each ingredient in each salad roll. When that’s in there, the wrapper should be nice and pliable, fold each side in on top of the filling, then pull up the bottom on top of the sides, tucking the filling in as you go. Then, roll it up. The idea is that the thing is nice and tight and sealed, though I can tell you that rolling these is hard, and mine were a little awkward. Oh well. Repeat until you run out of filling. Also- these keep in the fridge, wrap them in a damp paper towel and then put in a tupperware container.
about a 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
2-3 tbsp sriracha
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I used 50% natural, 50% Jif, because that’s what I had)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp or so red curry paste – any brand is better than no curry paste, but I highly recommend it having Asian writing on the jar, rather than some stupid $6 approximation of curry paste they sell at the regular store next to a $6 jar of pre-made peanut sauce.
Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Keep in mind that you can adjust the flavors to suit, as well as the consistency. Mine turned out pourable, but not too liquid, like a melted milkshake. Perfect. It makes maybe 2 cups. Keep it in a jar in the fridge.