I can still remember the first time I ate gado-gado. It was at a restaurant in Carlton, Melbourne, called Nyonya. At the time I thought it was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted (still do), the only possible challenger would being Laksa (a Malaysian coconut curry soup) which I also tried for the first time at the same restaurant. That was in the late 80’s (possibly even very early 90’s) when I was vegetarian. Around the same time I discovered a little Indonesian cookbook on my mothers shelf. It was written in the late 1960s by an Indonesian woman who’d migrated to Australia and was trying to recapture the cuisine of her homeland using the ingredients available in Melbourne at that time. Whilst now it is absolutely no problem finding all manner of Indonesian ingredients locally, then it would have been a very different story. Anyway in the book was a recipe for gado-gado, or more specifically for the peanut sauce that is used to dress gado-gado and I’ve been making versions of that sauce ever since. In retrospect its interesting that my mother possessed such a book as I certainly don’t remember her ever cooking from it – well not until the mid to late 90s at least. Growing up our diets were pretty much meat and 3 veg or pasta with not much variation at all.
Gado-Gado is an Indonesian salad with a satay type dressing. Its served either cold or warm, the salad ingredients vary but it is always eaten is topped with a lovely creamy peanut sauce.
This is how I make mine:
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 tspn finely grated garlic
- 1/2 tspn finely grated turmeric (optional)
- 1 clove garlic -crushed
- 2 tblspns oil
- 1/2- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tblspn soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp tamarind puree (or if unavailable lemon juice works really well)
- 4 tblspn peanut butter
- 165ml coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
Heat the oil in a small/medium sized saucepan. Fry onion until it starts to brown, add ginger, garlic and turmeric and fry until golden. Add chilli powder, stir. Then add soy sauce, sugar, tamarind puree (if using lemon juice add it at the end rather than at this point) and peanut butter. Cook over a very gentle heat for a couple of minutes until the peanut butter has melted down. Add the coconut milk and the sauce will thicken considerably. Gradually add the water until you reach a very thick pouring consistency. Taste and season with more tamarind, sugar and salt if needed.
I usually make gado-gado by steaming some veg, hard boiling a couple of eggs and serving the veg and eggs covered in sauce and on rice. It is a great dish for using up little harvests especially if, like me, you tend to grow small amounts of a wide variety of things. Some of my favourite veg to use include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, silver beet and green beans. It is also worth trying with raw vegetables, especially cucumber, carrots and capsicum.