Food for Thought: Gado-Gado Ulek With a Modern Twist

Deconstructed gado-gado. (JG Photo/Petty Elliott)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:52 AM June 09, 2013
Category : Life & Style, Food & Drink

Deconstructed gado-gado. (JG Photo/Petty Elliott) Deconstructed gado-gado. (JG Photo/Petty Elliott)

Gado-gado is a classic Indonesian dish originating from the Betawi, Jakarta’s original inhabitants. It traditionally consists of mixed vegetables — amaranth (locally known as bayam), water spinach, bitter melon, bean sprout, long beans and chayote bathed in classic peanut sauce with tamarind and shrimp paste, palm sugar and chilies.

Gado-gado is normally served with fried tofu, tempeh and boiled egg.

For this week’s recipe I would like to create a traditional gado-gado with a different cooking technique and a contemporary presentation.

For the sauce, I do not add the peanut but serve it separately for a more crunchy texture. The twist also lies in the texture of the soft-boiled, rather than hard-boiled egg. Enjoy!

Deconstructed gado-gado ulek (ground gado-gado)

You will be surprised at the classic taste of gado-gado with a lighter-flavored sauce with a totally different look, with the peanut roasted, not deep-fried. Serves 4.


75 grams of red amaranth leaves; 100 grams of water spinach leaves; 4 small chayote, peeled and steamed; 50 grams of beansprouts, remove the roots; 1 medium bitter melon, cut into 8 round pieces with the seed removed; 8 long beans, 2 soft boiled eggs, deep-fried shallots for sprinkle (optional)

For the palm sugar and tamarind sauce: 50-gram palm sugar block, 5-6 tablespoons tamarind water (50 grams of tamarind paste diluted with 100 milliliters hot water); 0.5 to 1 teaspoon roasted shrimp paste; 2 red bird eye chilies, a pinch of salt

For the peanut crumbs: 50 grams of homemade roasted peanut, ground to coarse


For the sauce:

1. Grind the chilies, salt and shrimp paste finely.

2. Slice the palm sugar block thinly, add to the chili mixture and grind to fine.

3. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the tamarind water. If you have a large ulekan (mortar and pestle) you can add the tamarind water into it pestle and mortar and mix gently. Mix well until you have silky, sticky and thick sauce.

4. For a runny honey texture simply add more tamarind water. Set aside.

To roast the peanuts:

1. Place the peanuts on a baking tray and roast until golden brown or roast using dried frying pan.

2. Grind the peanut with ulekan to coarse. Set aside.

To boil the egg:

1. Put the egg in room temperature water in a medium size pan and bring to the boil and cook for 4-5 minutes. Transfer the egg into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process and remove the eggshell immediately prior serving.

To prepare the vegetables:

1. Steam all the vegetables except the red amaranth and beansprout. Steam the chayote first for 3 minutes, add the sliced bitter melon and steam for 3 minutes, then steam the long beans for 3 minutes and finally add the water spinach and steam for one and a half minute. Place all the vegetables into cold water in a bowl for 2-3 minutes to keep their color and stop the cooking process. Strain all the vegetables.

2. Divide the water spinach into four portions and squeeze with your hand to make a small bowl for each portion. Set aside.

3. Twist two long beans into a knot. Make four sets and set aside.

To serve:

1. Brush the palm sugar mixture on each of four serving plates. Sprinkle with ground peanut. Place each of the vegetables and half of a soft-boiled egg on top. Add the fresh red amaranth.

2. Add some more dots of sauce around the plate and sprinkle with deep-fried shallots. Put some more sauce in small bowl if needed. Enjoy!

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