Food for Thought: Salt peanuts, salt peanuts! | KNKX

Food for Thought: Salt peanuts, salt peanuts!

Mar 20, 2019

One look at Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen recipe for Salted Peanut Tart convinced me that I was in the presence of a large, circular version of my favorite candy bar. 

It was PayDay pie and I would bake it!

OK, it didn’t turn out exactly like a PayDay. More like “...a pecan pie without all the goo” as The New York Times’ Pete Wells described the salted peanut tart at New York’s Houseman Restaurant.

Perelman’s recipe was her attempt, with no help from Houseman,  to reverse engineer that tart at home.  I’ve never had the original version, but I sure liked my results with Perelman’s, which she suggests serving with a gob of sour cream.

All excited, I bragged it up to Nancy Leson, who had a peanut story of her own to share about the time she, son Nate and his friend from college dined out together. 

“When Nate introduced us to his college pal Yin Xzi, he insisted we take her to Kedai Makan on Capitol Hill for a Malaysian taste-of-home. When Yin Xzi told us her mother made peanuts like those we ate at Kedai Makan, I insisted she call her mom — immediately — for the recipe. This is my version of the notes she took.

In your search for dried anchovies, consider using the “wet” version sold prepared in pepper paste in the banchan section at H Mart and other Korean markets, rather than the big bags available at most Asian grocers. Feel free to add or subtract amounts of chili peppers and lime leaf to suit your taste.”

Bet you can't eat just one.
Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX

 Nancy’s Malay-style Peanuts from Yin Xzi’s mom's recipe


peanut oil (substitute canola)

2 cups raw peanuts

1 large shallot (about ¼ cup), sliced into half-moons, or diced if you prefer

Dried anchovies (available at Asian groceries: see head-note, above)

2 dried Chinese red chili peppers, finely chopped (or substitute milder chile Japones

or chile de arbol)

1 teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste

3-4 Makrut lime leaves, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt

To prepare:

In a wok or skillet set over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the

peanuts until very lightly browned, strain and set aside.

Fry sliced shallots (add a bit of oil if necessary), strain and set aside

Fry the anchovies, briefly, then add the dried chili and toss.

Add the peanuts and shallots and toss.

Add sugar, beginning with a teaspoon, and toss. Taste until the flavor suits you (sweetish, but not too sweet).

Add Makrut lime leaves and toss, briefly (to keep their bright color).

Add Kosher salt to taste, then transfer to a bowl. Cool before serving.

“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.” – Orson Welles