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Thai Peanut Sauce – Chemistry Lesson: Oils

April 15, 2013

Jim’s a big fan of Asian food. Well anything with rice. So this homemade peanut sauce is an easy way to fill his craving. It goes hand in hand with a Thai Chicken Stir-Fry Salad that I made a while ago, but lately I just make the sauce, some white rice, and stir-fry up whatever vegetables and meat I have on hand to mix in with it. Caution, the recipe below makes a lot of sauce.

Thai Sauce Base

Thai Sauce Base

Final Peanut Sauce

Final Peanut Sauce

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 25 min
Cook Time: 5 min
Total Time: 30 min
Yield: 2 cups
Taste: Very Good

Ingredients
1/4 cup sugar
5 tsp. sesame seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame seed oil (see Chemistry Lesson below on oils)
4 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbs. sambal oelek chile paste (this is hard to find, I typically just use whatever Asian chile paste I can find at my local grocery store)
1 tbs. tamarind paste
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tbs chopped cilantro
6 tbs peanut butter (I like to have nuts, so I use chunky)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil

Procedure:
1) First make the Thai sauce base by combining sugar, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, garlic, chile paste, and tamarind paste in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
2) Remove from heat and immediately stir in green onions.
3) In a medium bowl add cilantro and peanut butter. Whisk in vinegar into the peanut butter and combine until smooth.
4) Add the Thai sauce base prepared in steps 1 & 2 to your peanut butter mixture you made in step 3. Mix with a whisk.
5) Finally whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to make an emulsion.

Thai Peanut Sauce Dinner

Chemistry Lesson

I did some research on oils for all my readers out there and for me since I’m always wondering what the difference is between them. Sesame Oil is one of the healthiest oils and is used in many Asian cuisines. It is not very heat resistant (has a smoke point of around 350 degrees F) so it burns easily and is best used in quick cooking methods such as stir-fry. It contains a lot more flavor than Vegetable Oils which is a blend of many different oils which produces a more mellow flavor. Vegetable oil has a higher smoke point (it’s hard to define given that composition of vegetable oils varies). Therefore, vegetable oil is better suited for longer cooking methods such as pan and deep-frying.

The best flavor substitute for sesame oil is Peanut Oil which has an even lower smoke point than sesame oil at 320 degrees F. If you are looking for a healthy substitute for Sesame Oil, Olive Oil is your best alternative. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the healthiest grade of olive oil as it is the highest quality (has less than 0.8% acidity) and is less processed. Its smoke point is 405 degrees F.

Source: The Marshall Field’s Cookbook, page 58

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