Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Five Spice Boiled Peanuts

I'm back from my Asia tour and I am seriously jetlagged yet again.... And, all I wanted to do (besides sleep) was fill up the pantry and start cooking. So my son lovingly drove me to the closest 99 Ranch Market - it's a Chinese market for those of you who don't know - and I bought a lot of food! Besides the Roast Duck and Char Siu BBQ pork, I was delighted to find raw peanuts in the shell, as one of my favorite snacks is Five Spice Boiled Peanuts. They are incredibly easy to make - they just require salt, water, Five Spice Powder and a lot of time - meaning hours. When they are done and you bite into the softened shell, you get a squirt of salty, lightly spiced juice and you get to eat the peanuts that have the consistency of cooked chickpeas, but with a wondeful peanutty flavor. I love them!

Now people from the Southern part of the US also loved boiled peanuts and you can find them cooked at road side stands. My father was from Virginia - that's peanut country and he loved boiled peanuts too, but plain with just salt. So, if you want to make them American style, just leave out the spice. They are great as a cocktail snack, but my favorite way to eat them is to shell them and put them in Rice Congee as shown in the photo above. Congee is just rice (usually left over from dinner) and lots of water cooked until thick. To serve the Congee, I also put in lettuce pickles (sweet and sour crunchy stems sold in jars), chopped green onion tops and a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil - it's an amazing breakfast. Congee with peanuts and lettuce pickles was served at all the hotels I stayed at in Asia and got me craving it all again. After all, with a Chinese mother, this was my most common childhood breakfast. And for me, it is incredibly comforting food.

So, if you want to make this recipe, you will have to find some fresh, uncooked "green" peanuts, even though they don't look green. When you can't find any locally, you can order them online from Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina or Mississippi. You can also buy them precooked at a Chinese market. And if you love peanuts, you'll just have to try them boiled!

Five Spiced Boiled Peanuts

1 pound raw (green) peanuts in the shell
1/4 - 1/3 cup salt
4 - 5 cups water (to cover the peanuts by about 1")
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder

Put all the ingredients into a large pot and taste the brine to see if it is salty enough for your taste. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 2 - 3 hours (or more depending on how soft you like them). Test at 2 hours to see if peanuts are soft enough and continue boiling if necessary. Cool slightly and serve. They can also be served cold or reheated.

Five Element Analysis

Well, this is certainly not going to be a very balanced snack as it only contains one ingredient - peanuts - that you eat. Peanuts belong to the Earth Element so that element is thoroughly covered. The Five Spice Powder adds in just a touch of the Metal Element and the Salt and way of cooking in water bring in some of the Water Element too. These peanuts are very good served with tea and beer and either of these drinks would bring in the Fire Element. The Wood Element then is completely missing so try to eat something before, during or after that belongs to that element like something pickled or sour or made of wheat and when served as I did with soupy Congee and green onions, it becomes a balanced breakfast.

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