In this recipe, the original Indonesian Gado Gado is transformed from a salad to resemble a platter of food with a sauce on the side, much like the French ‘Le grand aioli’, which is served with a large bowl of garlic mayonnaise on the side. One could potentially still serve this as a salad where the ingredients are tossed together with the sauce, but it is an elegant starter where people can help themselves, or, with the addition of some deep-fried chicken strips, as a main course. The original recipe does not include chicken nor papaya, but papaya and Asian food works perfectly well together, and the Gado Gado peanut satay sauce benefits even more from the addition of a little papaya. It tempers the sauce a little and provides a wonderfully gentle fruitiness. As for the constitution of the platter itself, one could add any number of vegetables and hard-boiled egg, while some vegetarian Gado Gado recipes include pieces of fried tofu as well. It is an ingenious plate of food, with the sharp spicy peanuty sauce providing moreish yumminess.
Most of the vegetables on this platter have been blanched – plunged into rapidly boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, according to the type of vegetable, and then immediately plunged into a bowl of ice-cold water with some ice cubes in to arrest the cooking. One could do all this ahead of time, and when you are ready to serve lightly spritz them with a little olive oil to return their vibrancy. Other vegetables can be left raw.
Wikipedia says that the word Gado-gado comes from an Indonesian word digado, which comes from the Indonesian Betawi culture – a culture that we know in South Africa as Batavia, the current Jakarta. The word apparently implies that the dish is not eaten with rice, which is why rice is not included as a key ingredient in Gado Gado. However, some rice cake (like lontong) is sometimes added along with shrimp chips.
The satay sauce for this recipe has specific volumes, but feel free to adapt them. If you like a peanuty flavour, increase the amount of peanut butter or peanuts, and if you like it hotter, increase the chillies.
Ingredients for a substantial platter that can serve 6 to 8 portions:
For about 600 ml of peanut Satay sauce:
1½ onion, roughly chopped
3 (or more) red or green chillies (depending on the level of heat you prefer), seeds removed and roughly chopped
2 (or more) fresh garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil
60 g unsalted dried peanuts (or the equivalent quantity of sugar-free peanut butter)
15 ml (1 tablespoon) shrimp paste (from Asian shops)
40 g palm sugar (from Asian shops) or brown sugar
80 ml fresh lime juice
40 ml fish sauce (from Asian shops)
40 ml normal soy sauce (not the thick variety)
250 ml coconut milk
80 g ripe papaya, cubed
For the platter (determine the quantity of vegetables according to the number of guests you have to feed):
Blanched green beans, trimmed
Blanched asparagus, trimmed
6 or 8 medium hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
Young cucumbers, sliced in half lengthways
Handful cocktail tomatoes
Handful small radishes
About 8 to 10 new potatoes, softly boiled and cut in half
Handful of julienned carrot sticks, blanched
3 or 4 chicken breasts, dipped in seasoned flour and deep-fried on high heat
1/3 ripe papaya, sliced into wedges
Make the Gado Gado sauce by gently sautéing the onion, garlic, and chillies in the olive oil until soft. Add the peanuts (or paste), the shrimp paste, palm sugar and cook over medium heat for the flavours to develop. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and coconut milk and boil gently until the sauce is slightly reduced. Cool. Add the papaya and purée in a liquidizer to a smooth sauce. Serve the sauce in a large sauce boat as an accompaniment to all the other items on a large platter.