This vegetable salad is an Indonesian standby. The vegetables—green beans, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach—are slightly cooked to retain their firmness, and a typical ground peanut sauce forms the basis of the dressing. In Indonesia, gado gado is often served by itself, or with crackers or boiled rice.This recipe is by Anne Willan and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
"Gado" in Bahasa Indonesia usually means one of two things: 1) to eat something raw or 2) to eat something without rice. So important is rice in the typical Indonesian meal that one word has been set aside to designate the unusual practice of eating something without the staple crop.
Since most of the vegetables in this salad are cooked, and as far as I can recall, I have never seen someone enjoy this dish with rice, it's probably safe to go with the second definition in this context.
Saying something descriptive twice, though, is a way of denoting emphasis, as in, "really really." And so, in reading "gado gado," or "gado²" the translation could be roughly interpreted as "you really, really shouldn't eat this with rice." Why? Because it would be weird.
This is a light and refreshing salad popular in many parts of Indonesia. I suspect it is of Javanese origin because of its notably sweet flavor profile and use of (ideally) Javanese palm sugar. No palm sugar? No problem — dark brown sugar makes a decent substitute. Same thing with the "kangkung" — it's a green leafy Chinese vegetable for which spinach is a good substitute; for those of you familiar with Malaysian cuisine, it's the vegetable that's in kangkung belacan. And if the shrimp paste has you worried, no sweat — it's not completely necessary. The most important thing to remember about this salad is that when you serve it, eat it right off the bat. Don’t let it sit, because the vegetables have a lot of water that thins out the dressing (a good thing, at first, since it's pretty thick), but after awhile... not so good.
Anyway, the next time it's 100 degrees out at 100-percent humidity and hazy (normal weather in the capital, Jakarta), give this recipe a whirl.
Many thanks to Zulinda Budiaman, my mother, for helping me with this recipe.
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