This is a totally magic sauce – it makes every dish you use it in very special. I use it in a hundred different ways – so many, you might want to make a double recipe. It will keep for 2 – 3 weeks in the fridge and it reheats easily.
The sauce is a combination of sweet, chilli and sour, with the tempering of the coconut milk and peanut butter. The sour flavours are layered in a tantalising way – you have palm vinegar or rice vinegar, lime juice, umaboshi and tamarind, and yet it is not too much. The sweet is layered with sweet soy and palm sugar. The heat comes from fresh green chillies and red chilli jam or paste. I usually have this one and this complex-flavoured one on hand – you can use what is in your cupboards, or you might like to make one of these so that you have some on hand. As always, because chilli pastes vary in heat level (and so does your tolerance), adjust the amounts in the recipe to your preference.
The sauce is a brown one though, or beige rather, from the soy, sugar and tamarind. But don’t mind that, it is delicious. Normally I would throw a heap of coriander leaves on top of the dish, but thanks to the record-breaking heatwaves we have had, the coriander fields are burnt to a crisp. However, do scatter some chopped peanuts over the top of your dishes using this sauce.
How is this sauce used? I drizzle the sauce on soups. Dunk noodles in it. It makes a wonderful sauce for deep fried tofu, or baked sweet potato, or steamed snake beans (or all 3 together). It goes beautifully drizzled over steamed, grilled or baked vegetables. Mix it through salads, especially Gado-Gado. Pour around steamed dumplings.
The Best Peanut-Coconut-Chilli-Turmeric Sauce
ingredients for 2 cups sauce
1 brown onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
0.5 Tblspn ginger or galangal, chopped
1 -2 green chillies, or to taste, finely chopped
10 ml vegetable oil
125g peanut butter
2 – 6 tspn red chilli paste/jam, or to taste (as chilli pastes vary in heat levels)
250 ml coconut milk
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
60 ml sweet soy sauce (or use a light soy sauce, and increase the amount of sugar)
25 g palm sugar or use brown sugar
40 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
50 ml palm vinegar, or use rice vinegar
0.5 tspn dark miso
0.25 tspn tamarind concentrate
1 umaboshi plum, chopped, or use 1.5 tspn umaboshi vinegar
Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli in the oil over a moderate heat until softened.
Add the peanut butter, chilli paste/jam and coconut milk and bring to the boil while stirring. Simmer gently, uncovered, until thickened. This might be immediate, or it can take up to 15 mins. It depends on the coconut milk and peanut butter used.
Add the remaining ingredients, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust flavours if necessary. You want sweet, sour and chilli balanced nicely.
Your sauce may be a little gluggy (it depends on the peanut butter and coconut milk that you use). Sometimes the oil separates out and the sauce is thick and a bit gluggy. Never fear! Great flavours when this happens. I store it in its gluggy state, and mix the paste with water to thin to the desired level for the dish I am making.
recipe notes and alternatives
You can grind your own fresh peanuts (raw or roasted, unsalted, without skins) and use in place of the peanut butter. Use about 100g of nuts.
Scatter some chopped peanuts over the top of your dishes using this sauce.
Original recipe inspiration: Spice, by Chris Manfield. Recipe has been adjusted.