Indonesian vegetable tofu salad

Indonesian vegetable tofu salad

Gado gado

By
From
Street Food Asia
Serves
4–6 As part o f a shared me al
Photographer
Alan Benson

This is one of Indonesia’s most famous dishes, some reckon the country’s national dish. I love the version they make near Citywalk Sudirman, where a whole bunch of carts congregate from late morning onwards. Every part of the salad, including the peanut sauce, is made to order, and the taste is rich and zingy. In Indonesian, ‘gado’ means to ‘consume without rice’ but ‘gado gado’ means ‘mix mix’. And this salad is indeed an incredible mixture of heaps of different ingredients. Snake beans, rice vermicelli noodles, rice cakes, bean sprouts, corn... everything gets stirred together and coated with the tasty peanut sauce. I love to perch on a plastic stool and watch my favourite gado gado guy make his salads on an enormous old stone cobek; it’s mesmerising. Even though a huge queue invariably forms, he still makes just one serve at a time. Never in multiples. To make the sauce, he grinds palm sugar, chilli, garlic, salt and peanuts together on the stone; this might sound ‘basic’ but the way he does it, it looks like art. The pragmatic chef in me always thinks it’d be far quicker to pre-make it in bulk but this is the way they roll here – everything made with intricacy, care and precision. Mind blowing. Once the sauce is smooth, he cuts up the rice cake, mixes it into the sauce with all the vegetables and some tofu and vermicelli, then places the whole thing on a plate. You help yourself to enormous rice crackers from a communal box then dig in.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
100g bean sprouts
2 snake beans, cut into 4 cm lengths
150g firm tofu, drained and cut into 5 x 2 cm squares
2 Lontong rice cakes, sliced
150g rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
100g cooked corn kernels

Peanut sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying
3 tablespoons skin-on peanuts
4 red bird’s eye chillies
1 garlic clove
pinch sea salt
1/2 tablespoon liquid palm sugar (see glossary) or shaved palm sugar (jaggery)

Method

  1. Briefly blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water, drain and set aside. Repeat with the snake beans.
  2. To make the peanut sauce, heat the oil in a wok to a medium–high heat, around 170°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds. Add the peanuts to the wok and fry for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Leave to cool.
  3. Add the chillies, garlic, salt and palm sugar to a mortar and pound with a pestle to a fine paste. Now add the fried peanuts and pound well until the peanuts are completely ground. Add 2–3 tablespoons of water, bit by bit, mixing well to achieve a nice, smooth sauce.
  4. Return the oil in the wok to 170°C. Gently lower the tofu pieces into the hot oil and fry for 3–4 minutes, until browned. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  5. Add the tofu, bean sprouts and snake beans to a large mixing bowl together with the remaining salad ingredients. Pour over the peanut sauce and toss together well.
  6. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Tags:
South-East Asian
Asian
Street Food
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