If there’s one condiment that connects all of Southeast Asian cuisine, it’s peanut sauce. Without peanut sauce at their side, satay and fresh spring rolls would feel naked, and Indonesia’s popular gado gado would simply be a plate of vegetables. Over the years, watching my mum make a variety of peanut sauces for dumplings, gado gado, and skewers of satay ayam Madura, I’ve learned that the best peanut sauce isn’t made from peanut butter—a shortcut that’s all too common in American recipes. Here’s another reason to skip the jar: Like freshly ground spices, freshly ground peanuts taste more robust. Depending on what I’m making peanut sauce for, my perfect peanut base ranges from chunky to grainy to smooth.
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