This would be the original version of Indonesian peanut sauce. How original? It is so original, that it makes use of almost all of the spices found in this archipelago. It is a pain to get all the ingredients, that I honestly think that you can make this as one of the challenges for those reality show. If you want to learn about Indonesian spices, try to make this peanut sauce, from scratch.
The taste of the sauce is so complex, that it is bursting with all kinds of flavor merge into one. But the amazing structure of our taste buds, makes it possible for those with sensitive palate to pick up the taste of each spices used. I can assure you that it is not me.
As any traditional or original recipes, I attempted to make this from scratch. Yeah, including the steps of roasting peanuts.
Get some raw ground nuts.
Wash them under running water for a couple of minutes in a colander. Some raw nuts have nasty stuff on the skin. I read it somewhere. We always wash nuts at home before using, whether or not it is proven that it has nasty stuff. It just feel like the right thing to do, I guess.
Dry on clean paper towel and put them on a baking pan. Lightly spray with oil.
Bake in a preheated oven (at 180 celcius). Keep an eye on them as they burn easily. They will brown nicely if you turn the pan a couple of times (and shake the pan lightly) in the course of 5-8 minutes. Remove them when they are slightly browned. The nuts will keep on roasting on the hot pan even when removed from oven. Use a rolling pin to get coarse textured ground peanuts. Alternatively use a food processor for finer nuts.
Now these are the fresh and dried spices for the sauce.
Always use more shallots than garlic.
Fresh red chilies. Get rid off the seeds by carefully slicing the chili open and scrape the seeds using fork. That would make it less spicy. We are dare-devils. We live vicariously. Hence we never remove seeds.
Dried chilies. Soak them in warm water for a couple of minutes before using. Scrape off the seeds for less heat.
Galangal. We can grow this by just dropping this on a pot of dirt. Before using in the sauce, lightly bruise it with a pestle or knife.
Clockwise – candlenuts, cardamom pod, nutmeg, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, ginger, and fennel seeds in the middle. If ground spices are used, you only need a pinch of each of these.
Some palm sugar, famously known as gula melaka or gula merah.
Some kaffir lime leaves – one of my most favorite herbs
Lemongrass, cut off the bottom part and divide them into two or three parts.
If fresh coriander seeds are used, they need to be washed in advance. Get rid off the floating seeds – sign that they are going bad
Toast the seeds before using on stove top for a couple of minutes. Some other ingredients not shown here are salam leaves and tamarind pulp.
Some spices are used whole or as is, and some are ground using mortar and pestle.
Spices ground are shallots and garlic, fresh and dried chilies, ginger, candlenut, coriander seeds.
Process them or pound them until they resemble coarse chili paste.
Stir-fry the paste with a little bit of oil till fragrant on a non-stick pan. This is an integral part of Indonesian cooking. Chili paste always needs to be stir-fried before going up to the next step of cooking. Cook till it turns a shade darker.
Add tamarind pulp juice and palm sugar. Continue cooking for a while, stirring and turning so that the spice paste, sugar and tamarind juice are mixed well.
Add the leafy ingredients, such as kaffir lime leaves and salam leaves. Toss in the stalky ingredients too, the lemongrass stalks and galangal. Stir-fry quickly until they slightly wilted and impart their fragrances
Pour in the coconut milk and lower the heat to a simmer.
Toss in the other dried spices. The dried spices when cooked too long, they can give the sauce bitter aftertaste. So it is better to remove them after done cooking. Easier said than done, I have decided to use spice bag next time so I can scoop off everything without fishing for cinnamon and cloves in a bowl of peanut sauce! Also, season with salt and pepper (if necessary)
When the sauce slightly bubbles up, add the ground peanuts and stir well.
When it has reached your desired consistency, remove all the herbs. If it is too thick, add some hot water. If it is too runny, cook slightly longer.
This is what it looks like at the end. The sauce will thicken by itself on standing, because roasted peanuts act like sponge and draw in all the excess moisture from the coconut milk. You can divide the sauce base into two servings and add half of ground peanuts on one serving and refrigerate the other. Heat up sauce base and mix in ground peanuts right before serving.
Serve with satay and cucumbers or rice cake. If you have neither, heat up a slice of baguette and dip it into the sauce. When all those aren’t available, a spoon is good enough!
Traditional Indonesian Peanut Sauce
2 garlic cloves
5 dried chilies
5 red chilies
1/2 cm fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander (or 2 tbsp coriander seeds)
1/4 cup cooking oil
30 g palm sugar (gula melaka / gula merah)
1/2 tbsp tamarind pulp, dissolve in 2 tbsp hot water
5 kaffir lime leaves
5 salam leaves, bruised
30 g galangal, bruised
1/4 fresh nutmeg
2 cm cinnamon
1/4 star anise (optional)
1 cardamom pod
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
250 cc coconut milk
100 g roasted peanuts, ground coarsely
50 cc hot water (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Pound shallots, garlic, dried and fresh chilies, ginger, candlenut and ground coriander in a mortar to coarse paste.
Heat cooking oil in a non-stick pan. Stir-fry chili paste over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
Add palm sugar and tamarind juice. Cook for another minute.
Add kaffir lime leaves, salam leaves, galangal and lemongrass stalks. Stir-fry quickly about 2 minutes.
Pour in coconut milk and lower heat. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, keep on stirring.
Toss in the rest of the spices and cook briefly for a minute.
Add the ground peanut. Stir well and remove from heat.
Serve warm with satay or meat skewers and rice cake.