During this Vegan Month of Food, I have designated themes for each day of the week. This is “Food for Thought” Thursday, and today my thoughts are about peanut butter in general and my favorite easy peanut sauce in particular.
I think of peanut butter as kind of an ambassador for vegan food. High in protein and rich in flavor, a little peanut butter goes a long way. It’s one of those ingredients that has historically, in the U.S. at least, been shrugged off as little more than an ingredient for a popular lunchbox sandwich. However, in other parts of the world, from African to Asia, peanut butter is enjoyed in all manner of dishes, from stews and soups, to appetizers, sauces, sides, and desserts.
In recent years, this unassuming spread has been overshadowed by pricier nut butters made from almonds, cashews, and other nuts and seeds. Still, it was peanut butter that was first developed in the U.S. by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in the 1890s as a high-protein health food and meat alternative. (Let’s hear it for Dr. Kellogg!)
One of my favorite ways to enjoy peanut butter is in a spicy peanut sauce. Variations of peanut sauce can be found throughout many Asian cuisines. Over the years, I’ve made countless versions, some cooked, some raw, sometimes thin, other times thick. I’ve varied the sweetener, used lime juice or rice vinegar to add tartness, and changed up the heat source.
My all-time favorite version is also the easiest and it can be found on page 202 of Vegan Fire and Spice
. I have since tinkered a bit more with that recipe, adding a little Thai chili sauce and increasing the volume a bit so there’s enough to use as a sauce for noodles or pasta as shown in the photo. (I made this peanutty pasta dish for a recent cooking demo in Baltimore.)
Here, then, is the recipe for my latest favorite peanut sauce. The amount of water you add will depend on whether you’re using it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or tossing with pasta and vegetables, and so on.
(Easy) Spicy Peanut Sauce
Adapted from Vegan Fire and Spice by Robin Robertson © 2010. Published by Vegan Heritage Press.
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian chili paste
About 1/2 cup water
In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Mix until well blended. Stir in as much water as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Use at once or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
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