Chinese Boiled Peanuts- The Gateway to Becoming a True Southener

I was born just outside of Philadelphia, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I spent a wonderful 12 years playing in the creek in the backyard, going to the pool every summer day and growing into a young girl fond of the King of Prussia Mall before moving south to Virginia Beach. More fun filled years followed in the southern beach town thru high school before I moved and got swept away and truly “southernized” by the charm of Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the South, the tradition and grace, from the willowing giant oaks filled with Spanish moss to the hospitality of strangers on the uneven cobblestone streets. There were only a few southern ways that I could not adapt- one being those giant mushy goober peas, a southern delicacy – Boiled Peanuts.

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I just could not get passed the soft, gross texture, or that a perfectly good peanut was wasted- how can you possibly beat the innate peanut flavor? However, my husband, who came from even deeper south, Fairhope, Alabama, loves the little boogers and convinced me to make some. I bought a one pound bag and made two different flavors- Cajun and Chinese. The raw green peanuts are harvested late summer but you can still get raw dried peanuts thru the year in most groceries. I immediately had a change of heart when I tasted one of the Chinese boiled boogers.

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Ingredients
1/2 pound raw unshelled peanuts
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches in length
1 star anise
1 clove
1 dried chili, optional

Directions
Place the peanuts into a large pot and fill with water, stirring to remove the excess dirt. Drain into a colander, rinse and repeat 3 times. In a heavy bottom pot add the peanuts and pour just enough water to cover. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and dried chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then lower temperature to a slow moving boil. Cook for 4-5 hours, checking occasionally that liquid is still covering the peanuts. Add water as needed and cook until desired tenderness. Another method is to use a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Serve the peanuts warm; reserving the liquid to store the peanuts in, if you have any leftover. Reheat on a stove with the braising liquid to serve later.

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Like any good southerner, I can accept fault with grace- I was wrong about the celebrated boiled peanut. I fell in love with these suckers. The Chinese flavor profile enhanced the traditional peanut flavor that I could not part with, absolutely addictive.

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With a pile in front of us, Sir Wes and I did not stop eating them until they were gone; barely even a face wipe or a sip of beer. I knew at this point of indulgence that although I have a birth certificate from Pennsylvania, I was truly a Southern girl.

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Benne Wafers- A Charleston Treasure!

On the 7th Day of Christmas Cookies I pretended to be back in my favorite place in the world, Charleston, SC.  I spent about 5 years there while I was going to the College of Charleston and now my parents reside there.  There truly is no place like home!  And when home is Charleston you are one of the luckiest- Especially if you are a food lover!   The Low Country is packed with history and tradition, creativity and inspiration.  Chefs today redefine the Charleston classics while pushing the envelope in the culinary world- a chef’s playground! 

Benne Wafers

Among other treasures you can find in Charleston are these famous treats- Benne Wafers.   They are light and crisp, native to the Low Country.  It is said that sesame plant was first grown in Africa, and that the West Africans, as slaves, brought it to this country in the 17th and 18th centuries, calling sesame “benne”.   Legend has it that eating sesame seeds brings good luck.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Racks and Racks of Benne Wafers

Method:

Blend butter and sugar together until creamy. Add vanilla and egg; beat until light and fluffy. Mix in sesame seeds, flour, baking powder, and salt. Drop by half teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, allowing enough room for spreading. Bake at 375° for about 10 minutes. Remove from pans immediately.

 Makes 5 dozen cookies.

One of Charleston's Best Treats!

 Happy Eats!