Bumbu pecel

The classic Javanese spicy peanut sauce.

Make it up in large batches because it will stay fresh in or out of the refrigerator for weeks. Then mix a few tablespoons with warm water whenever you want some gado-gado or nasi pecel.

1½ cup raw peanuts
10 small red chilis
2 large red chilis
2 tsp asem tua [mature tamarind]
6 lime leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 thumb-sized pieces of kencur
2 tsp salt
 about ¼ cup gula jawa [palm sugar]

  1. Fry peanuts in oil for about 3 minutes
  2. Crush peanuts to a fine powery paste in a lemper
  3. Remove peanut mixture to a separate container
  4. Crush remaining ingredients in a lemper
  5. Add peanuts and mix well.
Makes about 1½ cups paste

American notes: There are a number of shorts cuts to this recipe. Published cookbooks often use peanut butter, which simply doesn't work very well, although if you use African peanut butter (from a west-African store), the result is somewhat better, maybe because of the variety of peanuts. There are also packaged gado-gado or bumbu pecel mixes which you just add a little boiling water to. These tend to be very hot and sweet, since chilis and sugar can be used to bulk out an otherwise undistinguished mixture. I don't recommend any of the powders, but some of the small compressed cakes aren't hopeless, although the homemade is easy enough and very much better.