Vietnamese Peanut Pesto Sauce

Recipes by Debi Snook; Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Pesto is not just Italian. This Asian version grinds together roasted peanuts, aromatic green-leaf herbs and those street-food signatures of lime, sesame oil and a whiff of fish sauce, a kind of seafood soy sauce. Just like other pestos, you can add proteins such as slices of chicken, pork or shrimp, or just serve it over noodles. Rice noodles would make for a classic and gluten-free version.

Vietnamese Peanut Pesto Sauce

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (preferably grapeseed, but canola or corn will do)
  • 3 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 TBS light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, a few extra for garnish
  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

Place 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in sauté pan and add garlic. Turn on heat to medium low and cook about 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Combine lime juice and sugar in heatproof container. Heat to a simmer on stovetop or microwave 30 seconds until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Place peanuts, garlic in oil, sugared lime juice, basil, mint, cilantro, sesame oil, remaining vegetable oil and fish sauce in food processor and run until it becomes a paste.

Serves 4, atop a pound of rice noodles cooked to package directions.

Gary: The acidity, salt and nuttiness of the peanuts, richness of the sesame oil and bright green aromatics and flavors of the basil, mint and cilantro lead to a wine with delicately herbal aromatics and bright acidity. A cool-climate Gewürztraminer would be interesting, as would a softly sweet or dry Riesling. So would a crisp, rich Italian white such as a Vermentino, Gavi or Soave, or a Sauvignon Blanc or Torrontés. A crisp sparkler would also work, such as a California Brut, Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco.

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