gado gado – indonesian satay salad

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My Opa (Dutch) grew up in Indonesia, and as a result, some of my fondest food memories featuring cuisine hailing from there. Peanut satay sauce has forever been on regular rotation in my family home. We usually serve it alongside a barbecued, marinated butterflied leg of lamb, but gado-gado is another marvellous option, especially if you have vegetarians coming along for a spot of dinner and have already served them haloumi. The peanut sauce can be prepared up to a day in advance, and if you mise-en-place cleverly and chop your vegetables with time to spare, it’s a perfect dish to serve to a large group.

I’ve provided measurements for the peanut sauce, but they’re loose and I encourage you to taste your own satay regular and adjust ingredients accordingly. As for the shrimp paste? My Opa used to tell us of the factory in which the fermented fishy stuff was made, and of an adjacent luxury hotel forced to drop their nightly rates because of the smell. I’m not sure if it’s true, but fry it and you will understand why such a place would be so cheap (an extractor fan or alfresco preparation will not go amiss).

Serves ~4 people as a main:

For the peanut sauce:

  • 2 medium brown onions
  • 1 tbsp neutral cooking or peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste (available at Asian specialty stores – don’t mind the smell, I promise it’s worth it. A vegan/vegetarian alternative to this would be miso paste)
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek or chilli paste
  • 2 tablespoons palm or brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste softened in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 can (330ml) coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
  • Lemon juice to taste

For the salad:

  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts if available
  • Half cabbage, finely sliced
  • Greens in season – green beans, julienned zucchini, asparagus, etc. etc.
  • 1 egg per person, soft-boiled and peeled
  • Potato crisps/prawn crackers prepared according to packet instructions

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and fry the shrimp paste, breaking it up and letting it go dark brown (watch it doesn’t burn).
  2. Add the onions and lower the heat. Stir the chilli paste and sugar through. Cook slowly until the onions are brown and caramelised – don’t rush it.
  3. Remove from heat and stir the peanut butter, tamarind and tamari/soy sauce through the onions until melted and combined.
  4. Place back on the low heat and add the coconut cream. Stir frequently to avoid catching and add boiling water as necessary to reach the desired consistency.
  5. Just prior to serving, add lemon juice and salt to taste. This can easily be made in advance and then reheated later.
  6. For the salad, briefly blanche the vegetables by placing them in a colander (one at a time, there will probably a large volume of them) and pouring boiling water over them. Drain of excess moisture with paper towels and arrange them on a serving platter, cabbage first, topping with blanched mung bean sprouts.
  7. Top the salad with the peanut sauce, peeled boiled eggs, potato crisps/prawn crackers and slices of fresh lemon. Serve with jasmine rice if desired.
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