My first exposure to Indonesian cooking was in 1981 when my friend Shirley cooked me some Indonesian food. She had done a Indonesian cooking class in Johannesburg, and I was entranced by nasi goreng and mie goreng and a dish she made with meatballs (this in the days when I ate meat). I was also introduced to Conimex products and I bought ketjap manis and sambal oelek, galangal and lemongrass. 1981 was a significant year in my culinary education – it was also the year that Carrier’s Kitchen reached South Africa. Carrier’s Kitchen changed the way we cooked and ate forever).
In 1985 C made a business trip to Australia. We had been set on emigrating for a few years by then (and were awaiting his graduation so we could formally apply) and it was a good opportunity for him to get the feel of Sydney. He came back convinced we were doing the right thing emigrating to Australia. He brought back a gift for me from his friend Mike who had moved to Australia 8 years before and his Australian wife Carolyn (whom I hadn’t met yet). The book is A Taste of Summer by Beverly Sutherland Smith. I loved it then (how did Carolyn know I was into food?) and I love it now.
Gado Gado was one of the first recipes I made from the book and a dish I make regularly in the warmer months. It’s basically a mixture of fresh and cooked vegetables, cold boiled eggs and peanut sauce served at room temperature (though you can have the sauce warm). It’s a substantial salad meal, and you can use whatever vegies you have. Tofu is a good addition too (cubed, either fresh or deep fried). I love how the sauce, eggs and raw and cooked vegies taste together. The vegetables in Beverly Sutherland Smith recipe are small potatoes, green beans, carrots, mung bean sprouts, cucumber, wombok (Chinese cabbage), onion and watercress.
Last night I used wombok, potatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cucumber, mung bean sprouts, sliced mushrooms, halved grape tomatoes and radish. Potatoes, cucumber and green beans are the essentials for me.
Here is her sauce recipe:
2 TBS peanut oil
125g (4 oz) raw peanuts
1 whole small dried red chili
2 cloves garlic
1white onion, finely chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste (blachan)
1TBS brown sugar
2 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup coconut milk
Heat the oil, and cook the peanuts until they are golden brown in colour. Drain on kitchen paper and then grind them finely in a food processor. (I usually dry fry them)
Heat a little fresh oil in the pan, and add the chilli. Cook, turning, until it is puffed and crisp. Remove it from the pan. When cooled, chop or crumble it finely, removing most of the seeds. Cut the garlic into fine slices and add to the same pan, along with the onion. Cook until golden and slightly crisp.
Mix in the nuts, brown sugar, lemon, salt, the pieces of chilli and the water.
Place in a small saucepan, return it to the heat and cook gently until lightly thickened.
Add the coconut milk and simmer for a couple of minutes. The sauce will keep for about 5 days in the fridge. Serve the sauce cool or slightly warm, NOT chilled.
(There are simpler recipes for peanut sauce!)
Pour or dollop (it should be thick) the sauce over the vegetables and egg and you have gado gado!
Or you can use a can or jar of satay sauce like I did last night. Yes, I do use packaged and processed foods, if there are no nasties (ie preservatives, flavourings, colourings) and the taste of the product is equal to that of home made. This sauce was a little spicier than I liked but it was still good.
I have never been to Indonesia. I don’t know if I will ever get there, even though it’s our closest Asian neighbour. But eating gado gado, as well as being delicious and healthy, evokes memories of friends and conjures a world of islands called Kalimantan and Sulawesi, the Moluccas, the Sundas, Komodo and Flores, a world I first read about in Marika Hanbury-Tenison’s A Slice of Spice, a world from where the spices of Cape Malay cuisine travelled to South Africa and infused Cape Malay cooking with a sweet and spicy combination of turmeric, chili, ginger and cloves, tamarind and garlic, galangal and lemongrass, cassia and cinnamon.