Spicy Szechwan Peanut Sauce

四川花生醬

This is a classic Szechwanese peanut sauce. The texture is thin, the flavor nutty and garlicky, and the bite mild to ferocious, depending on how much hot chili oil you use. It is splendid with noodles, cold poultry and cold vegetables, and in the Western realm with most anything you might put on a grill. Try it with French fries, it’s delicious!

  • To make a good peanut sauce, you need a first-rate peanut butter. If I am not making my own, I use only “pure” peanut butter made from roasted peanuts with no seasonings added, ideally with the red skin ground in for color and extra bite. Walnut Acres and Arrowhead Mills’ Deaf Smith are two excellent brands.

Ingredients

  • about 10 large cloves garlic, stem end removed, lightly smashed and peeled
  • about bunch fresh coriander leaves and upper stems
  • ½ cup unseasoned peanut butter (for making your own, Chinese-style)
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon thin (regular) soy sauce (read the cautionary note regarding brands)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • 1–2 tablespoons hot chili oil

Method

Mince the garlic and coriander separately in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, scraping down as needed until fine. Measure to obtain 2 packed tablespoons garlic and 3 packed tablespoons coriander. Return the measured garlic and coriander to the work bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and process 1 minute until homogenized, pausing once or twice to scrape down the bowl.

Alternatively, mince the garlic and coriander finely by hand, pack in tablespoons to measure, then blend with the remaining ingredients until smooth and well combined, in a blender or by hand.

Seal the sauce airtight and set it aside at room temperature for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator to give the flavors a chance to develop. The chili taste will enlarge during this time, so go easy at the start if you are at all hesitant. You can always add more. Bring to room temperature before using, and stir briskly or reprocess to mix.

Store the sauce in a clean, airtight jar in the refrigerator. It keeps indefinitely.

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