How to Make Gado-Gado With Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette
It's pronounced "gah-doe gah-doe" and it is, by definition, a salad. At least that's the closest English translation I can offer. In a culture where everything is eaten with rice, "gado" means to eat something without it. And since gado-gado is mostly vegetables, served at room temp, and dressed with peanut sauce, most menus will translate it as a salad; but it's regarded as a full meal. It's salad the same way a Cobb salad is a salad.
But also, there's this: the majority of the vegetables--like bean sprouts, Chinese string beans, cabbage and kang kung (Chinese watercress)--have been boiled. There may be some tomato, cucumber, even lettuce if someone's trying to take the salad thing literally; but a properly done gado-gado will usually contain the boiled ingredients before resorting to the raw stuff.
Most importantly, a gado-gado must have pieces of a boiled potato, some fried tofu, and quarters of hard boiled egg. It will also have compressed rice cakes called lontong, which is the loophole that allows this to be considered a meal, since it technically does have rice, after all.
But it's the sauce that makes a gado-gado a gado-gado. It has shades of coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and most often, chilies, ground and mixed together by mortar and pestle. A sprinkle of crispy fried shallots, some prawn crackers called krupuk and melinjo crackers called emping is added at the end--yes, even Indonesian salads require its croutons.
If you've read this far, you might have realized that the picture you see above has none of these things. Furthermore, you'll notice that the components I also show do not a proper gado-gado make.
The bottled dressing is from Trader Joe's, which may not even realize that it's inspired from gado-gado. But it is, in my opinion, a great approximation of it, which has, in turn, allowed me to be inspired in creating a gado-gado-like salad.
So we went and bought some Trader Joe's herb salad pack, a few cashews, and at home, we hard boiled an egg (we splurge with quail eggs if we can find it).
Then, from 99 Ranch, we picked up some Dong Phoung Tofu fried tofu packs for $2, as well as some Marco Polo brand shrimp chips, which is unadulterated, honest-to-goodness krupuk made in Chino, California by an honest-to-goodness Indonesian.
Put together, what we've created here isn't a substitute for the real thing; but for attempting a pseudo-gado, as we'd like to call it, it does quite well.
The tofu, egg and krupuk with this peanut sauce help to bring it home, literally, as is the absence of any sort of rice. This gado-gado is as much a meal without rice as this recipe is a recipe without instructions.
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