I love the sweet-salty-and-slightly briny peanuts served at Hawker Fare in Oakland, California. Whenever I go to James Syhabout’s casual rice bowl-and-snacks cafe, I start off with an order of the peanuts (called “Siamese Peanuts” on the menu) to nibble on. A squirt of lime juice brightens up the funk of the shrimp paste that lends the roasted peanuts their umami depth. It also brings out the chile and fennel undertones.
The other dishes usually arrive before I finish the peanuts so I end up mixing some into my rice. These peanuts are at home as a nosh with beer or as a side dish. You could certainly make a light meal out of the peanuts, rice, and a green vegetable.
Yesterday, I was jonesing a cocktail hour snack and thought of Hawker Fare’s Siamese peanuts. Not living near the restaurant, I took matters into my own hands and made my own, coming up with this recipe after a couple of tries.
Note that sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and dried shrimp paste (belancan) are sold at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. You can use pre-roasted shrimp paste (below) or unroasted shrimp paste.
Spiced Siamese Peanuts
You could totally double this recipe without a problem. The water prevents the peanuts from becoming brittlelike. If the peanuts sit for too long and turn unpleasant hard, add a touch of water and zap them in the microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to refresh.
Serves as a snack or side
1 tablespoon Indonesian sweet soy sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon water
1/4 teaspoon packed dried shrimp paste, unroasted or pre-roasted, mashed or crumbled
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1/8 teaspoon dried chile flakes
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon scallion rings (green and white parts)
1 or 2 slender lime wedges
1. In a small bowl, combine the sweet soy sauce, water, shrimp paste, and kosher salt. Taste to make sure that there’s a balanced salty sweetness. The dried shrimp funk should barely be noticeable. Set this seasoning sauce aside near the stove.
2. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the oil, peanuts, chile flakes and fennel for about 3 minutes, until gently sizzling and lightly fragrant. Lower the heat to medium low, give the seasoning sauce a stir, then pour into the skillet. Constantly stir for 15 to 30 seconds, until most of the liquid has clung to the peanuts. Remove from the heat and stir in the green onion, then transfer to a small bowl.
Serve with lime wedge for guests to add a tart brightness. Use a spoon to eat the peanuts as they can be messy.
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