How to Make Ecuadorian and South American Peanut Sauce, Salsa de Mani
This is a classic sauce for Llapingachos, the Ecuadorian potato and cheese cakes. It is also delicious on boiled potatoes, yucca, or any meat you can think of, including fish. I even like to spread this sauce on crackers.
This recipe represents a centuries-old sauce that was made all over the Americas before the Europeans arrived. It is a modern version of traditional peanut sauce. While every family has it's own recipe, and there are variations from region to region, this recipe uses evaporated milk and no hot peppers. If you prefer a spicy sauce, chop up some chili pepper and sauté them with the onion, or else add a few teaspoons of your favorite bottled hot sauce. If you prefer not to use canned evaporated milk, you can substitute heavy cream or regular milk, or just plain water if you don't eat dairy. If you're in the mood for something more exotic, use coconut milk or coconut water.
1 cup no-salt-added peanut butter
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 tablespoon achiote/annatto oil (see link below for instructions on making annatto oil)
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
A handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
A pinch of salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
A pinch of ground cumin
Optional: Seeded and chopped hot peppers or a few shakes of hot pepper sauce, depending on how spicy you want the salsa to be.
1. Mix the peanut butter and the evaporated milk with a fork until well mixed. You can also speed up this process by mixing them in a blender or food processor.
2. Heat the annatto oil in a skillet and cook the onion, tomato, garlic, and peppers if using. Cook until the onion is tender.
3. Stir in the cilantro and peanut mixture. Bring everything to a boil and then lower the heat to let the sauce simmer. Cook it for a few minutes to give the flavors a chance to blend. Be sure to stir frequently so the bottom doesn't burn.
4. Take sauce off the heat and season it with salt, pepper, cumin, and hot pepper sauce if you're using it.
The sauce should have the consistency of very heavy cream. If it's too thick, it's ok to add some water, cream, or milk. For a smoother sauce, let it cool down a bit then put it in the blender. Serve it hot over llapingachos. You can also served it with fried eggs, fish, chicken, beef, pork, rice, or even noodles for an asian-fusion dish. Be creative.
A note on Ecuadorian Creole Cuisine
The culture of Ecuador, like many other Latin American countries, is rich with influences from all over the world. The many indigenous societies that developed in Ecuador in the centuries before the Europeans arrived used native plants and animals from the Amazon rainforest, the coastal jungles, and the Andean highlands to develop their own cuisine.
The Spanish (and other European groups like the Dutch and Germans) who came to the region brought with them centuries of fusion cuisine stemming from the Silk Road and trade between Africa, Asia, and Europe, introducing spices and sweets. The Europeans also brought African slaves, who added their own methods.
This Ecuadorian peanut sauce and its classic accompaniment, llapingachos, have been made in the Andes for centuries. Both the potato and the peanut are native to South America, and chili peppers are also a "New World" food. The streets of Quito and other Ecuadorian towns and cities are full of indigenous people and locals selling llapingachos with peanut sauce. Peanut sauce is also very prevalent in coastal Ecuadorian cuisine, where it is served with fish and chicken, and mixed with coconut to make mouth-watering dishes like ensumacao, a coconut soup; viche, a peanut soup; and cazuela, a variation on the Spanish soup that combines crushed peanuts and seafood to made a hardy casserole.