An Indonesian cooked vegetable salad

In Indonesia we regard this as our national dish - one of them, anyway. The Malaysians regard it as theirs also, but that’s all right, many Malaysians are descended from folk who left Indonesia to seek their fortunes elsewhere. For me, this is just classic Javanese food. The emping listed among the garnishes are delicious nutty crisps, made in fact from crushed nuts but not always obtainable outside SE Asia. The popular Chinese prawn crackers are quite a good substitute and should be easily obtainable, in packets, ready to fry.

For 4-6 people

The vegetables:
  115 gm / 4 oz of each of the following:
   - cabbage or spring greens, shredded
   - yard-long beans or french beans, cut into 1 cm / 1/2 inch lengths
   - peeled carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
   - cauliflower florets
   - bean sprouts, washed

   300 ml / 1/2 pint / 1 cup Peanut Sauce (see recipe below)

The garnish:
  some lettuce leaves and watercress
  1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
  1 medium-sized potato, boiled in its skin, then peeled and sliced
  1/4 cucumber, sliced thin
  6-8 prawn crackers or emping crackers [see introduction, above]
  1-2 Tbsp fried shallots

1  Boil each vegetable separately in slightly salted water for 4-5 minutes, except the bean sprouts, which only need 2 minutes. Drain them in a colander and keep warm.

2  To serve: arrange the lettuce leaves and watercress around the edge of a serving dish. Then pile the cooked vegetables in the middle of the dish. Arrange the eggs, sliced potatoes, and sliced cucumber on top.

3  Heat the peanut sauce in a small saucepan until hot; stir in a little hot water if it is too thick. Adjust the seasoning, and pour the sauce over the vegetables. Sprinkle the fried onions on top, as well as the crackers, just before you bring the gado-gado to table. It can be served warm or cold.

4  Alternatively, serve the sauce and the garnishes separately for your guests to help themselves.



Peanut sauce

In Indonesian / Malaysian (they are almost the same language), c is pronounced like ch in the English word church. So this is ‘sambal katjang’ - just as good with satays as it is with gado-gado. The quantities shown will make about three-quarters of a pint /430 ml.

110 ml / 4 fl oz / 1/2 cup vegetable oil
225 gm / 8 oz / 1 cup raw peanuts with their reddish inner skins
850 ml / 1 1/2 pints / 3 cups hot water

 The paste:
2-4 large red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp tamarind water or lime juice
1/2 tsp salt, and more later
2 Tbsp oil

1  Heat the vegetable oil in a wok and fry the peanuts, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on a tray lined with absorbent paper. Discard the oil. Leave the peanuts to get cold, then grind them in a blender or coffee grinder to a fine powder.

2  To make the paste, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

3  Transfer the paste to a saucepan and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 4 minutes. Add the hot water, and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

4  Bring the liquid to the boil and add the ground peanuts. Stir, and continue to cook the sauce for 4-5 minutes or longer, until you get the thickness you prefer for your sauce. Adjust the seasoning.

5  You can keep the peanut sauce in the fridge until needed; it will keep for up to a week. It can also be frozen. Thaw it out completely before re-heating in a saucepan. You may need to add more hot water and continue heating it until you get the right consistency.