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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Boiled Peanuts 水煮花生

As a kid, I used to have this perception that naturally linked these boiled peanuts straight to the elderly. No offense intended! lol. But that was me growing up witnessing and yet not fully understanding how my dad and mom could have such an enthusiasm towards these boiled peanuts over the years. Never once could I remember them passing by a stall selling these mushy soft peanuts without grabbing themselves a good-sized pack of these popular street food in Malaysia. To say that to be appreciating these boiled peanuts is an acquired taste would not be totally true either. Personally, I do think that this is either one that you simply love at your very first try or you simply don't, at least not as much as you do with other peanuty stuff. While I have always found myself in the latter group not developing a particular adoration for these, I would still find myself nibbling away happily whenever I got hold of them, probably just not too overly so. 

The reminder to this particularly nostalgic memory of mine was recently brought back when hubby out of the blue mentioned (or hinted maybe! lol) that he had not had these boiled peanuts for a while now (and well, that in our conversation context would actually equal a humble request put forth by him lol). So with that, the raw peanuts went listed in my grocery list. And when I finally managed to get hold of a pack of these green peanuts (green for being fresh from the ground unprocessed, not literally so), that marked my very first in making these boiled peanuts at home (my parents will be really proud of me! lol).

Simple basic ingredients - the peanuts, enough water and salt, making this is really all about the timing set aside to have them boiled and simmered away. It is this that determines how soft they eventually get with the flavor intensified proportionally to the overall time spent on heat. Different people will probably have a different liking in terms of how soft and salty they should get; taste preference has always been something ever so subjective after all. Likewise, there may not even be a standard rule as to how they should be done. The time needed to make a batch that tastes at their very best varies from batch to batch; different sizes and the freshness of these nuts are a few of the plenty other factors that make each batch of boiled peanuts uniquely different from another. 

pre and post boiling

The basics to making a batch, however, should be simple to grasp - have them thoroughly rinsed and lightly soaked for a short moment to especially get rid of the debris, transfer the nuts to a large stock pot, add in enough water to cover them followed by some salt for seasoning, boil and let simmer away. Depending on how you personally like them - firm with a tad of crunchiness retained still, soft but not totally so or one that is simple mushy and soft, you will have to go on the "sampling" mode to get to the right texture. Sample periodically so you know exactly when to stop. Just what can be better than sampling them away as they get cooked? lol. Give them a try if you have not; you may just find these totally likeable.

Boiled Peanuts 水煮花生
Serves 5-6 as snacks
1lb raw peanuts in their shells
enough water to cover the peanuts comfortably
3 - 4 tbsps salt

1. Rinse the peanuts a few times under running water to get rid of any debris that these peanuts always come with. Transfer them to a pot of water and soak for about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Transfer the peanuts to a large stock pot and add in enough water to cover the peanuts comfortably. The peanuts will appear floating so do not be worried about having the wrong kind of peanuts of anything; they are perfectly alright.
3. Stir in the salt and bring the pot to boil on high heat.

4. Let boil for about 15 minutes before turning the heat down to low. Cover and let the content simmer away. Sample often to make sure they don't go beyond your acceptance level, and check the water level from time to time as you do. Add in a little more water as needed to make sure that the peanuts are covered at all times.
5. When they have softened enough over time, turn off the heat. If you feel that the peanut you last sampled has got the right saltiness level, strain the nuts through a sieve separating them from the water and they are good to be served right away! But if you feel that they can get a little saltier still, let them soaked in the water as they cool. The now concentrated salt water in the pot will continue to seep in slow and steady.

Depending on how salty you like them, I find 3 tbsps of salt work just fine for my personal preference, with at most 4 tbsps. But I do agree that this is totally personal. At this point, you may have to try making your very first batch with a starting amount of salt that you think best suits your taste preference, make a note, and try making another batch another time adjusting the amount of salt accordingly should you find it insufficient or too much this time around. 

And as mentioned, depending on your personal preferred texture of these peanuts, you will have to sample them from time to time; a sampling done every hour maybe. Randomly choose a peanut, crack it open and try if it tastes just right. I would say that they will usually require at least an hour before they even start taking any change in texture. If by any chance you like them mushy soft like I do where you can just squeeze them open effortlessly with just a light snap of fingers, sampling will then be unnecessary - I simply left mine simmering away for a good 7 hours and they were totally good to go!

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