The softest, smoothest spice paste

The softest, smoothest spice paste

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

This recipe is partly a response to the challenge of making the smoothest spice paste possible. And, if the texture of the paste is softened, I asked myself, should the flavour also be correspondingly softened and more subtle?

For the peanut paste


Quantity Ingredient
3cm piece of ginger, sliced
6 red asian shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 dried red chillies, deseeded , softened in hot water then chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
120ml coconut milk
100g pureed peanuts, (see note)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
lemon juice, to taste

For the accompaniments

Quantity Ingredient
1 brown onion
50ml peanut oil, pl us extra for brushing
4 green chillies
100g chinese cabbage stem, cut into matchsticks
4 eggs, at room temperature


  1. Make the peanut paste:
  2. Pound the ginger, shallots, garlic and red chillies to as fine a paste as possible with a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the paste. Cook until the oil separates from the main mass. Remove from the heat and mix in the tomato paste. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture starts to darken, making sure the paste doesn’t burn. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and pass through a fine sieve. Stir in the puréed peanuts, add the sugar and salt and season to taste with lemon juice. If the mixture is too thin, gently simmer in a saucepan until it holds a line when a spoon is run through the middle of the mixture. Keep warm and covered.
  3. Prepare the accompaniments:
  4. Peel the onion, cut in half and slice thinly and evenly. Heat a pan over medium–low heat, add the oil and slowly sweat the onion until caramelised. Drain off the oil and season the onion with a little salt. Keep warm. Brush the green chillies with a little oil, season with salt and grill until slightly scorched all over. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and brush with a little oil. Add the cabbage matchsticks and fry gently with some salt until slightly softened but still retaining a bite. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Peel the eggs and then place in water at 65°C until ready to use.
  5. Assemble the dish:
  6. Place a spoonful of the warm peanut paste in each serving bowl. Arrange the onion, chillies and cabbage around the paste and place an egg amongst the arrangement.

To puree peanuts

  • Lightly roast 120 g peanuts to refresh them. Make a poaching liquid with 500 ml water, some ginger peelings, a red Asian shallot split in half and a clove of garlic. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes until the shallot smells mellow and cooked. Add the peanuts and simmer for about 1 hour until softened, topping up with water if necessary. Drain and set aside liquid. Fish out the peanuts, puree with a blender until a fine paste, adding the poaching liquid to help make a smooth paste if needed.
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