Friday, April 22, 2016


Aloha... Still bored. But a bit better. I suppose...

I am leaving for Indonesia in a week! Ironically, I am craving Indonesian food, badly. I suppose it's not at all surprising. My brain thought that I was a week away from tasting Indonesian food in Indonesia... especially that one particular dish called Gado-gado.

Translated literally, Gado-gado means mix-mix, according to Wikipedia. Now, this version of the dish is what I grew up with. Waaaaaayyyy back when (yes, I am old), I used to buy this for lunch. The peddlers of this dish usually set up shop in their respective homes, somewhere around their garage. In Indonesia, the garages aren't separate buildings, they're just covered area in front of the house, a part of the front yard, if you will.

When you come to their shops, usually you'd tell them what you want the peanut sauce to taste like (salty, sweet, spiciness level). Then, they would make the peanut sauce fresh in front of you and add the vegetable, mix it, top it with fried shallots and crackers and serve it.

Now, although generally there are variations in what vegetables are included in the dish, there's a consensus for not adding carrots or broccoli (I have bought a version which contained the offending items). Generally, the vegetables used in this dish are leafy, crunchy vegetable that maintained crunchiness after boiling. Also, they have to be cheap (think peasant food). Garnishes, though, is a whole different story.


For the peanut sauce:
1 jar of pure peanut butter (see notes)
6-7 kaffir lime leaves (or more to taste), ground
2-3 tbs palm sugar
1 in block tamarind (or 1-2 tsp tamarind concentrate)
1/2-1 tsp fried shrimp paste
lime juice to taste
oil to fry the shrimp paste
boiled birds eye chili (for spiciness)

For the vegetables:
Chayote squash, matchstick cut
Long beans, cut to 1 in
Bean sprouts
Cabbage, shredded rough
Tofu, fried

Fried red onion

1. Fry shrimp paste in 1/2-1 tsp of oil per 1/2 tsp of shrimp paste.
2. Make the peanut sauce by mixing the ingredients. Add water to desired consistency.
3. About an hour prior to serving, cut tempeh into smaller blocks (about 2 in. x 2 in) and soak them in salt water.
4. Boil all the vegetables until cooked (to desired tenderness), except for the spinach and bean sprouts which need to be blanched and cucumber which is served raw.
5. Drain the tempeh and tofu then deep fry them until golden brown. Set aside.
6. To serve, first pile on spinach, cabbage, bean sprouts, long beans and chayote squash. Then peel the boiled potatoes and slice a few pieces. Add few slices of cucumber, fried tofu, and tempeh. Add peanut sauce and then garnish with fried red onion and crackers.

1. Pure peanut butter means the peanut butter that contains nothing but peanut, and maybe a bit of salt. Read the ingredients on the jar. Avoid something that has molasses, sugar, etc. Alternatively, of course, is to buy raw peanuts, fry them until golden brown, and then ground them. Or skip them altogether and get instant gado-gado peanut sauce, which looks like this (need a LOT of doctoring).
2. If you have kaffir lime, no need for lime and kaffir lime leaves.
3. Freeze the kaffir lime leaves and run in through warm water quickly to thaw, this will weaken the plant cells. Tear the kaffir lime leaves to pieces from the leaf veins. This will make it easier to pound the leaves in mortar/pestle. Crush is to the point it's a paste, add about 1-2 tbs of water to the mortar to collect all the crushed leaves. The leaf veins of this plant is rough and tough, so it is important to separate the leaves from the veins to avoid unpleasant texture.
4. Palm sugar has a distinct taste. I highly recommend using palm sugar, although other types of sugar can be substituted for it without changing the taste too much.
5. A block of tamarind looks like this. I suggest shopping around. It shouldn't be that expensive. Put this block in 1/4 cup warm water and massage it. That should separate the pulp from the pit and you should have a thick slurry at this point. The pit can break your teeth, so make sure none of it goes into the sauce.
6. Shrimp paste should always be fried because it is raw. How do you know it's done? It'll turn lighter brown color. Don't use too much oil or the shrimp paste will disintegrate into the oil. 
7. I highly recommend russet potatoes for this dish. If you boil them first, it'll be easier to peel. 
8. The slices of potatoes, cucumber, tofu, and tempeh are not uniform. But of course you are more than welcome to go fancy and make them uniform. 
9. I recommend cheapy shrimp crackers, one that doesn't taste too much of shrimp and more salty. Or garlic crackers. Avoid the round noodle crackers or fish crackers.
10. What to do with leftover peanut sauce? You can turn it into Indonesian peanut noodle salad (ketoprak, not to be confused with the performance) by adding crushed fresh garlic and sweet soy sauce and drizzling the resulting sauce to rice noodle, sliced cucumbers, tofu, and bean sprouts; or you can use it for satay sauce (your satay will just be that much fancier).
11. Wikipedia said string beans, bitter gourd, corn, and/or egg. I personally don't like to add those in mine. To be honest, I have never seen a version with string beans and bitter gourd. I have seen ones with corn and egg, however.
12. Cousins of this dish include: pecel (with lesser galangal and boiled cassava leaves and super complicated list of ingredients), karedok (raw), gado-gado pengantin (literally, wedding mix-mix, commonly served at wedding, uses more vinegary peanut sauce eliminating the kaffir lime leaves and tamarind, also uses partially raw ingredients), and ketoprak above. 
13. Skip the shrimp paste to make this vegetarian friendly. Although shrimp paste adds a layer of flavor, it's not super crucial, especially if you're turning the peanut sauce into ketoprak.
14. You can serve this with rice or rice cakes. I don't like to do so, because I'm a purist (and the rice gets trapped in the peanut sauce so they're kinda pasty mush unpleasant textured, so use rice cake if you must).
15. Finally, if you add too much water and it makes your peanut sauce runny, mash a potato and add it into the sauce to thicken it.

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