Sunday, November 6, 2011

Peanut Sauce

Rice paper wraps?  I love them.  They are a regular at our house, and I don't think I've ever eaten them without peanut sauce (well I probably did once, just to realize how lame it is).  I have bought peanut sauce before in a fit of laziness, but I usually do make homemade.

The store brand: Asian Gourmet - Thai Peanut Sauce

My recipe:
The amounts have been approximated - I never measure when I make it:
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (more or less depending on spice preference)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or not)
2 tbsp cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice

I basically put everything in my small food processor:
- Start by adding the garlic and ginger and let it get well minced. 
- Add the peanut butter, tamari, rice vinegar, chili garlic, fish sauce, and sesame oil.  Process and then add the cilantro and lime and blend lightly. 
- At this point add water a tablespoon at a time until it is your desired thickness.

I do make this every time I have rice paper wraps, but I make a lot so that I can add it to stir fry later in the week.  You can also thin it out a bit and use it as a salad dressing.  Or add it to soups.  Or use it as a sandwich spread.  Or dip carrot sticks into it.  THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

And here's the outcome, with mine on the left:

So, how do the tastes compare?  It doesn't.  Not to gloat, but I can't even tell you how good mine was.  Seriously, it's like crack to me.  This store bought version was not my favorite of the prepared peanut sauces I've tried - it was just too sweet (water and corn syrup topped the ingredient list).  So needless to say, mine wins the nutrition category hands down.

And the price breakdown?  A lot of the Asian ingredients are expensive at the grocery store, so I get them from the Asian market in town.  For the cost breakdown, however, I used the standard grocery store price, and it's still a little cheaper to make your own.

      Size     Cost     Cost/Oz
Asian Gourmet - Thai Peanut Sauce7 oz $      2.19  $            0.31
Homemade10 oz $      2.67  $            0.27

I just can't get past the taste difference here.  If you are going to buy store brand, I would steer away from this one.  There are some decent ones out there, though I always prefer my own.

If you're interested in the rice paper wraps, here is how I make them:
(serves 2)
6 rice papers
vermicelli noodles (I buy them in single serve 2 oz packages for these)
1/8 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup peanut sauce (we love it, okay?)
And then use any combination of the following:
1 cucumber, julienned
1 large carrot, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
diced, fried tofu (8 oz)
crumbled, fried tempeh (8 oz)
pan-fried shrimp
1 cup cooked cabbage
shredded romaine lettuce

Dip your rice paper in water for about 15-20 seconds until it just starts to soften (don't oversoak - it will continue to soften while you add the fillings).  Put it on your plate and fill it with desired fillings - top with sauce.  Wrap it up like a burrito - and don't worry, after a few, you will be a pro! 

So once tasting both sauces in the wraps, has my opinion changed?

No way, the homemade has so much more flavor, and is much more peanut-y than the sugared up store bought and it's about the same price.  The time to make it is really just getting everything together and into the food processor (and many times I've left out an ingredient or two I didn't have on hand - still awesome).

Bake or Buy?  BAKE!


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