My sister Gaye has claimed this as her own. Come summer, she trots it out, year after year, and no one is sick of it yet! Some chilli pastes are quite fiery so add a little at a time as once it’s in, it can’t be taken out. And, I made this version without a food processor (it has ‘retired’ after nearly 20 years service).
120ml (about 4 fl oz) soy sauce (choose a premium brand authentic soy sauce, and by all means opt for a low-salt one) 6 small stalks lemon grass, or 6 strips lemon peel 2 star anise 2 Tbsp raw sugar ½ cup hot water, or as required 500g (about 1 lb) crunchy peanut butter (again, opt for a low-salt variety if wished) 3 Tbsp lemon juice 2 Tbsp chilli paste such as sambal olek, or to taste 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed A selection of fresh crisp vegetables (carrot, celery, cauliflower, fennel, green beans, radish, red and yellow bell peppers/capsicums, witloof/chicory/endive leaves); washed, peeled and sliced into strips or broken apart into small pieces suitable for dipping (if using witloof, trim and remove outer leaves and discard, then break apart into leaves but don’t wash)
1 Combine soy sauce, lemon grass or peel, star anise, raw sugar and hot water in a small saucepan. Stir the mixture over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 10 minutes and strain, discarding the lemongrass and star anise.
2 Combine the liquid with the peanut butter, lemon juice, chilli paste and garlic in a food processor. Taste and add more chilli paste or lemon juice as required. If the sauce is very thick, add more hot water a little at a time to bring it to a dipping consistency.
3 Transfer sauce to a container, cover and refrigerate until required. The sauce generally thickens on standing, so you might need to thin it down before using. It will keep for about a week. To serve, stir well and transfer to a bowl and surround with prepared vegetables.