Despite its diminutive size, the peanut has an important place in the Chinese kitchen. It is both a popular staple and the source of the most common cooking oil in China. Two more interesting facts about our little peanut friend: Technically, it isn’t a nut, but a legume. Also, although they are now cultivated throughout Asia, peanuts were originally introduced to China from the New World, four centuries ago. Whatever world you’re in, peanuts make a wonderful snack and can be added to stir-fries and sweets or ground for use in dressings, sauces, and soups.
Makes 2 cups
2 cups Virginia peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon chopped mint leaves
6 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the peanuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the skins are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
To prepare the syrup, combine the cilantro, mint, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and sesame seeds, if using, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is syrupy and reduced by half, about 7 minutes.
Pour the syrup over the peanuts and stir to coat evenly. Serve warm or at room temperature.