The deep, savory personality of Melaka-style saté finds its sweet-and-sour match in this variation on Malaysian peanut sauce. In the motherland, this is often prepared with belimbing, the tart starfruit common in Southeast Asian cooking; pineapple serves as a more accessible replacement in the States.
- In a blender, combine shallots, chiles, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and oil, then blend into a thick paste.
- Combine paste and salt in a large pot—oil tends to splatter during the cooking process of this sauce, so a high-walled vessel will help prevent a big mess. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil begins separating from the solids, about 15 minutes. Take note of the fragrances you’re extracting—you should get the light aroma of shallot, ginger, and chili as the color of the oil turns bright red. This oil, infused with the flavorful essence of the spice paste, is an important indicator of a properly made kuah kacang.
- Add sugar to the pot, slowly caramelizing to turn the contents of the pot a dark red hue.
- Add tamarind juice, pineapple puree, peanuts, and water to the pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. The sauce should reduce, thickening to a gravy-like consistency.
- Let the sauce rest for 1 hour uncovered to allow the flavors to come together. The red oil will float to the top. Stir it back into the gravy while reheating it over medium heat before it is served.
A Philadelphia-based food and drink writer, Drew Lazor has contributed to Bon Appétit, Condé Nast Traveler, Lucky Peach, The Philadelphia Inquirer, PUNCH, Saveur, and Serious Eats.