There are certain herbs and spices that appear to be intrinsic to Indochinese cuisine (which is to say that of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar): garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, cilantro, and purple basil. Normally, these flavours are enjoyed in the noodle soups of the region, the chilled noodle salads (bun in Vietnamese), in viands served over rice (khao in Thai), or in protein-enriched salads (larb). So imagine my surprise when a colleague came back from Cambodia and offered a tub of lemongrass-and-chili peanuts for the lot of us to try.
If you love garlic-fried peanuts or spicy snacks, these are definitely up your alley. Large, hulled peanuts are stir-fried with a rather compelling mix of rock salt, finely minced garlic, bird’s-eye chilies, and finely chopped lemongrass to create a snack that is kicked up several inches higher than the usual kind you get from the supermarket or from the itinerant peanut carts plying their trade along major thoroughfares.
Aside from the wonted funkiness of garlic and a touch of fire from the chilies, the lemongrass adds a slightly floral, certainly fresh taste to the peanuts and makes them absolutely unusual and delightful. I’d go so far as to say that they’re absolutely moreish, but the lemongrass may put off those who would rather nosh on the old-school garlic-only goobers. Nevertheless, I’d have these again; and I’ve already put in an order with another colleague who’s heading to that part of the world. ;)