Huge heaps of green pea pods are everywhere right now. Sweet and tender they are impossible to resist. I buy bagfuls of the brilliant little things and as evening approaches, and the day cools down, I sit outside cracking and shelling away, no longer enlisting anyones help since said help ends up eating every single pea they shell. I then stew them simply with a mix of of really good olive oil and butter, and shavings from a chunk of pecorino cheese. So good. However, sugar snap peas, to me, are even more irresistible. I love them. And bonus, no shelling required. Unfortunately they aren’t as plentiful as peas so if you see them, grab them.
Like green peas, snap peas need little embellishment and benefit from the same treatment as peas; a little good-quality oil, a short cook time, a sprinkle of good cheese. But equally simple, another flavour treatment for snap peas that I can’t get enough of, is this soy-based, Szechuan-style spice blend. I do keep the heat toned down a bit since not everyone enjoys too much burn, but the sauce is fantastic with the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and salty flavours. You can find sambal oelek at most Asian stores, but any Asian chili sauce will do.
Likewise, Shaoxing wine, a Chinese fermented rice wine (it might also be labelled as “rice cooking wine”), adds a particularly wonderful flavour that is worth seeking out and buying, but you can substitute with dry sherry or rice wine vinegar. I like the bit of crunch that the cashews add to the dish, but use peanuts if you prefer or leave them out entirely. With this sauce, the snap peas partner beautifully with pork or lamb chops, or keep it simple and serve them alongside a mound of fluffy white rice.
- ½ pound sugar snap peas trimmed
- 1 Tablespoon extra-vigin olive oil
- 3-4 Tablespoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 2- inch piece fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon sambal oelek or other chili sauce such as sriracha
- 1 tablespoon tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Toasted chopped cashew nuts for garnish (optional)
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- In a small bowl, combine the ginger, sambal oelek, tamari, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and maple syrup to make the sauce.
- In a medium saucepan, add the sugar snap peas, olive oil, water and salt. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender.
- Add the sauce, stir, and remove from heat. Serve garnished with cashew nuts and toasted sesame seeds, if desired.