Gado Gado

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

There was this hole in the wall in Pasar Boplo in Menteng where we religiously bought our gado gado for the greatest part of my childhood (which was until a few years ago ;) They made the most amazing sauce, which we found out was a blend of peanuts and cashews. And ... wait for it ... coconut milk. It was so smooth, creamy and darned delicious. And I can still recreate the aromas in my palate even now.

Yep! They were more pricey than the average gado gado, considering the 'hole in the wall of a wet market' factor, but we, as well as other well heeled customers with their fancy cars, braved the unpaved road to park in said wet market (rarely did we eat there) and order their amazing gado gado.

This establishment, Gado Gado Cemara, not to be confused with Gado Gado Boplo, has since moved on to a better looking location. However, I, have moved on much too far to enjoy their offering.

This is my humble attempt to recreate their flavorful sauce.

Literally, gado gado, or gado2 as the locals write it, means a melange or a mix. A mix of vibrant greens, usually cucumbers, beansprouts, cabbage, chayote, water morning glory (kangkung), spinach, potatoes, long beans, boiled eggs and my favorite ... emping, which is the crispy cracker made from the fruit of a Melinjo tree.

Now, aesthetics and 'locavoritis' (I'm sure I just coined this word - meaning the disease or the compulsion to use local ingredients) dictate my gado gado. I prefer to use locally grown vegetables of different colours because we all know we should 'eat the rainbow'. And really, colourful veggies on Instagram ... who doesn't 'like' that? Hahaha

And this is what it looks like, plated, with a rice cracker that is the highlight of this fabulous meal!

Well, here is the recipe... I'm not about to portion out the veggies because only you would know how much you'd like. As for the peanut sauce... there's never too much of a good thing. Plus, you can refrigerate it and I bet you'd use it the next day, if only to pour over steaming hot rice. (Yes, my kids do that!)

Romaine lettuce
Bean sprouts
Cooked tofu (available in Asian grocery stores)
Hard boiled eggs

Peanut Sauce: (cooking for more than yourself? double it!)
1 cup roasted skinned unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1 tsp vegetable oil ... or peanut oil ;)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 4 red chilies, deseeded and sliced (to taste)
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass
1/4 cup palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed kaffir lime (or lime)

To serve:
Fried shallots

Prepare vegetables
1. Julienne cabbage, romaine lettuce and carrots. Set aside
2. Blanch these and the bean sprouts in boiling water and place in colander to drain completely.
3. Slice cooked tofu or make your own by pan-frying tofu slices.
4. Slice cucumbers.
5. Quarter hard boiled eggs.
6. Arrange on your plate or serving dish, cover, and place in refrigerator while you prepare the peanut sauce.

Cooking the sauce:
1. In your toughest blender, pulverize the peanuts and cashews with 1/4 cup of the coconut milk. Leave it in there.

2. In a heavy bottomed skillet or pan, heat the oil.
3. Add the garlic, chilies, and kaffir lime leaves, stirring until fragrant.
4. Remove from the pan and add that to the blender, giving it another go.

5. Back on the skillet, cook the rest of the coconut milk with the lemongrass and palm sugar until it comes to a boil.
6. Add the ground nuts to the skillet and bring to boil again.
7. Taste and adjust sweetness with kecap manis.
8. Turn off the heat and add the kaffir lime juice just before serving.
9. Oh, and remove the lemongrass. It was only for the aroma.
10. Cool before using. Nobody likes hot peanut sauce ... or do they?

We like our peanut sauce on the gritty or chunky side, but if you prefer a smoother gravy-like consistency, blend it again. Also, if you find that the sauce is too thick, add some water to the consistency you'd like.

If your blender tolerates high temperatures, you may want to pour the cooked coconut milk (very very carefully) into the blender ... er ... without that lemongrass stalk ... and take it on from there.

10. Remove your artistically arranged vegetables from the refrigerator and pour the cooled peanut sauce liberally on top.
11. Top with fried shallots and my favorite ... emping.

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