This Vietnamese style pesto from Saveur is a fresh change from the ubiquitous summer basil pesto. It is a complex blend of sweet, salty, and sour flavors with a kick. The traditional Asian ingredients, cilantro, mint, lime, a touch of brown sugar, and salty fish sauce combined with ground roasted peanuts, are blended together to make this savory sauce which is fabulous when paired with grilled fish or shrimp, chicken, tofu, or noodles.
The ingredients and the process are simple and can be completed in 10 minutes. Make sure when you add the cilantro that you use the stems and the leaves to get the maximum flavor from the cilantro. Unlike the traditional Italian style basil and pine nut pesto, I do not add oil to this herby sauce.
I recently grilled a whole red snapper to serve with the cilantro peanut pesto. I have used whole fish as well as redfish, red snapper, and drum fillets to make this delicious Asian recipe. If you don’t have the energy to fire up the grill, just bake the fish fillets in the oven and top with this savory sauce.
If I use a whole fish, I go to my local fish market and get a whole fish, 2-3 lbs, scaled, gutted, and cleaned or the individual firm fish fillets.
Before baking or grilling, season the whole fish or fish fillets with a little oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a hot grill or in the oven at 400 and cook for 10-15 minutes until done. Remove fish from grill or baking dish. Place the cooked fish on a platter and cover with the peanut and cilantro pesto. Garnish with lime slices, the extra green onions, and crushed peanuts. Reserve extra pesto and place it in a small bowl with a spoon. Pass it around in case your guests crave more of this yummy Asian sauce.