What the Hell Is Gado-Gado?
The wok is deep as it is wide, the thick black iron glistens with hot oil over a ferocious gas stove. Next to it is a tray of small peanuts, fried in their skins to a burnt umber. The young chef Rudi, baseball cap tipped back, empties the tray into a battle weary blender along with clumps of toasted red chilli, two fists full of chunky garlic and some water. The resulting ooze is poured in to the hellish cauldron and sizzles wildly as shrimp paste and palm sugar are thrown in. I was arriving at the gates to peanut sauce enlightenment, moments away from foodie nirvana.
What is Gado-Gado?
Rudi is confident in the open kitchen of Lemongrass Warung. He has three or four smaller stoves, each with a different size of flame adding fuel to the dense humidity. He is preparing a dish called Gado-Gado (directly translates as mix-mix) which has crept to the top of my Asian food chart. Steamed vegetables, slices of omelette and tempeh are smothered in the bubbling sauce, licked with a dash of kecap manis (like a soy sauce glaze) and served with rice and crackers. The practice Rudi has put in to the meal is so clear, everything tastes fantastic and when put together, it's frankly sublime.
He writes down the recipe on a receipt and gives us some tips for when we try it at home. I can't help but feel we'll laughably fail to recreate this potion without the magic of his kitchen, though.
Want More Indo Bites?
Below are some tasty alternatives that you'll find pretty much everywhere.
Native to Lombok, chicken is roasted first, then marinated in oil, chilli, garlic and salty shrimp paste and lime. It's then grilled so the flavour and fragrance are punchy, keen to make a mark.
Found in almost every alley, this rice based dish is more of a starting point for customisation than a rigid recipe. Served with many smaller versions of other dishes, it is often topped off with a fried egg.
Probably the only export success from the Indonesian menu, the dish of fried rice tossed with vegetables, tamarind and shrimp paste can include chicken, tempe or tofu as an addition.