Friday Food 57 – Peanuts
Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. Once again you are going to say what is so unusual about… … peanuts?
And once again, I’m going to say, there is nothing straightforward here in China. Not even in peanut terms. Whatever you call them – peanuts, groundnuts, earth nuts, monkey nuts, pygmy nuts or pig nuts, the one thing for sure is that they aren’t nuts. Rather they are a legume or bean. But hey, as Juliet said, what’s in a name? In Chinese, they are 花生.
They are available everywhere. But be careful. Sometimes they are just peanuts in the shell. Other times they have been boiled. I can’t deal with the boiled ones. They feel all wrong. Peanuts in bags from supermarkets are usually just regular peanuts in the the shell. Those from street vendors have nearly always been boiled. Don’t ask me why – just one of those Chinese things. You can usually tell by looking. The boiled ones have damp looking slimy surface to the shells. Raw peanuts are around ¥10 / 500g.
Apart from the regular in-shell nuts, you can also find what are one of my favourites. Red mud peanuts (红泥花生)! These have been “cured” by being buried in a muddy red paste of unidentifiable ingredients then baked until the shells turn red and the ‘nuts’ take on a pleasant earthy taste. These are good (in my humble).
Another oddity is a peculiar strain of peanut in which the bean is absolutely black. Nothing has been done to these -that is just they way they are. Black peanuts -黑花生. They taste exactly the same as the regular ones.
But the nuts nearest my heart are these. Known in Chinese as 酒鬼花生 or sometimes 啤酒花生 which translate as “drunkard’s peanuts” or “beer peanuts”, these are right up my street.
Basically the are what I consider to be regular roasted and salted peanuts, but they come in two varieties – plain but salted and salted and spicy. I tend to buy a bag of each and mix them 50:50. They are available in every supermarket and corner shop.
Also available are the usual array of chocolate covered peanuts, wasabi peanuts etc. These particular coated peanuts are known as 鱼皮花生 in Chinese. This literally translates as the somewhat unappetising “Fish Skin Peanuts”. They do not contain fish in any form but are just peanut kernels with a coating made from glutinous rice and wheat flours, sugar, salt and various additives (tartrazine E102, Allura red AC (E129)and vanillin). Not recommended.
As well as being eaten with beer or as snacks, peanuts feature in a number of cooked dishes, most famously the Sichuan favourite, 宫保鸡丁, known in the west as ‘Kungpo Chicken’.
Less well known is that peanuts can be sprouted just like any other bean and served as a vegetable.
Also edible are the young shoots of the creeper on which the beans grow.
Peanut butter (Skippy brand) is available in every supermarket.
Finally, most of the cooking oil around here is peanut oil.