A New Peanut Sauce for Gado Gado

I’ve been on the lookout for some time now for a more authentic Indonesian peanut sauce to crown a gado gado salad or sate sticks. I’ve tried many recipes from my various Indonesian cookbooks and most seem to miss the mark. Indonesian sate sauce differs from island to island and each Indonesian home cook may highlight a distinctive spice in their sauce. I’ve tasted some dark, thick sauces in Java and Sumatra which are quite different from their Balinese counterparts. The same goes with the classic gado gado vegetable salad, a dish which depends on an excellent peanut sauce. I’ve eaten some completely green gado gado salads in Ubud, Bali and some made from only kangkung  (water-spinach) in Sumatra, as well as the old-fashioned mixed steamed vegetable gado gado that I learnt around 35 years ago in my early visits to Bali, which includes hard-boiled eggs.

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Basic ingredients for a good peanut sauce

The following recipe comes from Janet de Neefe’s Bali, The Food of My Island Home. Janet runs a cooking school in Ubud, which I attended a few years ago, and also has three restaurants and a lovely guesthouse in Ubud. She has lived in Ubud for more than 30 years with her Balinese husband and family. Note that I often substitute brown sugar for palm sugar, a switch that makes very little difference to the outcome of the sauce. Balinese peanuts are always super fresh and freshly roasted: try to find a reliable source of freshly roasted nuts. Good Indonesian Krupuk Udung ( prawn crackers) are quite different from the ubiquitous supermarket variety. They are large and tastier and can be found in many Asian groceries.

Balinese Peanut Sauce
Balinese Peanut Sauce

Bumbu Kacang– Balinese Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • slice of shrimp paste/ Belachan/Terasi equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 long thin red chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 small red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded
  • 2- 3 tablespoons fried shallots ( optional)
  • 1 tablespoon grated palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kecap Manis
  • 1/4 medium tomato
  • 150 gr peanuts, roasted
  • 3 + tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • sea salt
My gado gado- using vegetables mon hand
My gado gado- using vegetables on hand

Method.

Hold the piece of shrimp paste with tongs or pierce with a skewer and roast over a gas flame on both sides until the smell is strong.

Blitz the shrimp paste, garlic chillies, lime leaves, fried shallots, palm sugar, and kecap manis in a food processor until smooth. Add a splash of water to get the mixture moving. Add the tomato, peanuts, water, lime juice and salt to taste. ( For a sauce with deeper flavour, you can fry the garlic, chilli, untoasted shrimp paste and tomato in 2 tablespoons of neutral oil ( not Olive) until fragrant first)

Prepare your gado gado vegetables or sate. Pour over the peanut sauce and garnish with krupuk udang ( prawn crackers)

Krupuk Udang. Balinse Prawn crackers
Krupuk Udang. Balinese Prawn crackers

A simpler version of Peanut Sauce can be found here, the latter useful for camping.

Photo on header taken at Taman Sari in Pemuteran, Northern Bali, where they make an excellent Bumbu Kacang.

The Road to Indigo

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Fabric speaks to me. I collect it, stash it, feel it. Antique European linens, worn Irish cloth, functional and timeless, faded Ikat from Java, Sumatra and Flores, woven wall hangings from Myanmar, mid-century Japanese Kimono sprinkled with shibori, or little fabric offcuts featuring sacred cranes, plush velvet Italian betrothal bedspreads, alive with colour and kitsch cherubin, or hand worked pillow cases and curtains from the antique market in Arezzo in Italy, embroidered table cloths, ancient filet crochet edging with worked in stories, words or historical events, crocheted jug covers featuring Dolly-Varden shells and beaded weights, Indian silk saris and long dupatta scarves, visiting every floor of a Sari shop in India: fabric hunting is a central part of my journey. It is often the history of women’s work, or a window into a culture, or one that is about to become obsolete, that appeals so much.

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Hand dyed indigo fabric is a recent addition to my textile addiction. I discovered some wonderful indigo fabrics at the Chatuchak ( Cha-Cha) Market in Bangkok in 2013. The following year, I toured an indigo factory in Dali, on the banks of Erhai Lake, Yunnan, China. And this year, I found another small producer of hand died indigo clothing on the banks of the Mekong River, in Chiang Khan, Thailand, as well as some lovely long lengths of deep indigo died linen in the back streets of the Warorot market, in Chiang Mai.

My next step is to learn this ancient art and dye my own cloth. I envisage drifts of indigo muslin, irregular in colour, floating in the summer breeze.Thanks Ailsa for this week’s travel theme, Fabric, at Where’s My Backpack. If I dug out all the representatives of my fabric collection, this post might fill a book.

In My Kitchen, Java, May 2015

I’m back in the small town of Cipanas, perched high in the mountains of West Java, a long way from the tourist trail.  I’m in the kitchen often, but it’s not my kitchen and I’m not doing the cooking. I’m watching, learning and asking questions as chef Banardi glides barefoot around his kitchen. It is a culinary ballet and a delight to watch. Years of Chinese and Indonesian traditions, the food of old Jakarta, is conjured and recalled, sometimes retaining it’s authenticity, at other times drawing on modern influences from Melbourne, Australia or Bath, United Kingdom. Like all great cooking, there are no recipes, no choreographer of the dance; the ingredients provide the inspiration.

Kitchen Ballet

Banardi, mentioned in a previous post, was chef and owner of the famous restaurant, Djakarta, in Richmond, Melbourne from 1995 to 2001. Growing up in Angke, a poor suburb in north Jakarta, he learnt to cook by shopping for his mother and observing her techniques. His mother was Javanese, his father Chinese: his cooking reflects these influences. In his twenties, he moved to Melbourne to study hospitality then opened the restaurant. It was deservedly popular, based as it was, on Ibu Bakhar’s authentic recipes as well as Jakartan street food.

In his kitchen, the equipment is minimal: a huge wok and rice cooker, a two burner gas stove with amazing power, a few pots for soup, metal spatulas and bamboo strainer spiders. As this is a holiday house, the kitchen is simple and austere but the food certainly isn’t.

A simple kitchen
A simple kitchen

My contribution to the kitchen is to go shopping at the local market or at Ibu Atit’s wonderful little store down a dark alley behind a mosque. Although we have a fridge, shopping for ingredients is a daily adventure. In Barny’s kitchen the following edible jewels are always present.

a variety of chilli with different levels of heat, garlic, shallot, lemongrass.
A variety of chilli with different levels of heat, garlic, shallot, lemongrass.
galangal, tumeric, ginger, palm sugar and nutmeg.
galangal, tumeric, ginger, palm sugar and nutmeg.
tofu, tempe bosok ( rotten tempeh) and today's tempeh.
tofu, tempe bosok (rotten tempeh) and today’s tempeh.

Tempe and tofu are added to most dishes and are never boring. We buy freshly made spring roll wrappers, so easy to use with no wetting required, and fill them with leftover noodle stir fry, tofu or tempe, and bean shoots. Tofu also lands in curries or is coated with tapioca flour and fried as a side dish or snack.

spring rolls, old fashioned  Chinese corn soup, and fritters. Homemade chilli sambal.
Afternoon Tea. Spring rolls, old-fashioned Chinese corn soup, and corn fritters. Homemade chilli sambal.
Fried rice, vegetable stir fry, soup of tofu and greens.
Fried rice, vegetable and tempe stir fry, soup of tofu and greens.

Every meal is a feast. The herbs, spices and alum and rhizome members form the base of each dish, taking simple dishes to another level. Sometimes we grind these in the Uleg, sometimes they are torn or roughly chopped. Along with these and fresh vegetables, rice or noodles add the basic carbohydrates and salty fish, coconut and eggs add more protein.

Pepes tofu on charoal BBQ
Pepes tofu on charcoal BBQ

On Tuesday night, Barny decided to make Pepes Tahu. (spicy tofu stuffing wrapped in banana leaves). I have often eaten Pepes Ikan in Bali, a mixture of fish mashed into a paste, spiced and then rolled in banana leaf and barbecued on hot coals. This tofu version was heavenly. The filling made from tofu, tiny salty fish, fresh coconut flesh, chilli, shallot and other spices, is mashed, placed into the centre of a large banana leaf and then rolled into a neat package, and secured with toothpicks. Coconut shells provided the charcoal for the barbecue: I love the way every part of the coconut is used. The little metal BBQ cost around $4.00 AU. I know what’s going back in my hand luggage.

Pepes Tahu, bean and egg curry in coconut milk, nasi putih, salty fish.
Pepes Tahu, bean and egg curry in coconut milk, nasi putih, salty fish.

I think the Pepes Tahu stole the show, but then the Lumpia Manis, sweet spring rolls based on an old Balinese recipe, Dadar, pancakes stuffed with coconut and palm sugar, were ambrosial. As you can see, Barny turned very Melbournian with the presentation of this sweet. The Lumpia Manis deserve a separate post.

Lumpia Manis- sweet spring rolls stuffed with coconut and palm sugar, sweet and salty coconut sand, and palm sugar syrup.
Lumpia Manis- sweet spring rolls stuffed with coconut and palm sugar, sweet and salty coconut sand, palm sugar syrup.

Thanks Celia, for hosting all of us again. Why not check out other kitchen inspirations at  Fig Jam and Lime Cordial?

Garden Gado Gado

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On numerous visits to the Indonesian archipelago over the years, my taste buds and I have searched for the perfect Gado Gado. This classic Indonesian salad is constructed from various cooked vegetables and salad ingredients, then covered with peanut sauce. My research has led to one conclusion: they are all different.  The term Gado Gado means mix- mix in Bahasa Indonesian and the dish is usually made with a mix of vegetables (such as potatoes, green beans, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage), with tofu, tempeh and hard-boiled eggs, then topped with peanut sauce dressing, and tapioca krupuk on the side. The versions I have tried in Indonesia often include vegetable greens and no egg, some have wetter peanut sauces and some dry and dark sauces, resembling the Javanese pecel sauce. The salad components seem to be vanishing from the modern Indonesian Gado Gado, but were definitely a component throughout the 80s.

Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.
Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.

My garden version is based on current garden pickings. I think many Indonesian cooks use what’s on hand and aren’t too fussed with following a formula. A very successful version can be made with the following summer produce:

  • Cos lettuce, chopped
  • silver beet leaves, green only, steamed
  • new yellow fleshed potatoes, cooked, sliced
  • mini tomatoes, halved
  • cucumber, sliced

To this, I have added,

  • hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • fried strips of tofu
  • peanut sauce

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The Peanut Sauce.

This is a wonderful cheat’s peanut sauce and I am indebted to Celia for this recipe. It is really tasty and cuts out a lot of work.

  • 60g Jimmy’s Saté Sauce
  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 60g coconut milk (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 10g dark sweet soy (Kecap Manis)
  • 15g lime juice (or tamarind if limes are scarce)
  • 10g brown sugar (or any sugar)

Whisk all the ingredients together until combined and then taste and adjust as needed.  I like to cook the sauce down a little to make a thicker sauce as I am not a fan of the ‘drenched’ version of Gado Gado. The sauce has deep notes of three spice powder and is hot and sweet and tastes pretty authentic!

The magic sauce, Jimmys
The magic sauce, Jimmys

I like to build this salad, starting with the lettuce ( Cos or Iceberg) then adding the steamed vegetable greens, followed by cooked potatoes, then green beans if available, then arrange the tomato and cucumber slices or chunks around the sides, interspersed with hard-boiled eggs. Then cover with the sauce, followed by any extra lovely things you may have hanging out in your pantry, such as tapioca krupuk, or fried shallots, or fresh, lightly steamed bean shoots.

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This version is based on my resolution to use what’s on hand, just like the good ibu of Java would do. No more running to the shops for one or two rogue ingredients. But I wish I had some krupuk!

An authentic version of peanut sauce can be found in Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food.   I like the cheat’s version equally well.

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New Year’s Eve. Home and Away, 2014.

As I cast a lazy summer’s eye over the year that was 2014, one thing stands out clearly. We travelled a lot. Overseas trips were interspersed with hard work at home, followed by more travel to recover. Mr T and I made an early New Year’s Resolution to travel less in 2015, but I have noticed some overseas bookings creeping into the 2015 calendar: only because the fares are so ridiculously cheap and because we are irresponsible old gypsies at heart.

Our year away begun in January with two weeks spent in West Java and Sumatra. The highlights of this trip included time spent with my old friend Banardi and his partner, Adam in their house in the mountains near Puncak, West Java. Daily cooking lessons were the highlight of this trip as well as spending time with B’s family. Lake Toba, Sumatra was an exotic side trip and an intriguing foray into Batak culture.

B cooks up ma storm in his Indo kitchen
Banardi ,the barefoot chef ,cooks up a storm in his Indo kitchen
Chinese New Year in Jakarta with B's Family.
Chinese New Year in Jakarta with B’s Family.

Thanks Banardi and Adam, but also our big thanks goes to B’s family, especially Baria and family, Tony and Li Li and all B’s extended family, who made our stay so special.

Side trip to Lake Toba, Sumatra. Our xx by the shore,
Side trip to Lake Toba, Sumatra. Our losmen by the shore.
lake Toba
Lake Toba from our terrace.

After returning to Melbourne, we soon set up camp in our family compound by the sea on the Mornington Peninsula. This annual camp is as old as Methuselah and involves four generations of family members. As we travel between homes, our regular home and our ‘canvas’ trailer by the sea, various family members and guardian angels take care of things left behind at either end. Thankyou for watering our garden and looking after our chooks, and thanks to the ‘guardians’ down by the sea.

Family Play time
Family play time
Gloriuos sunsets of Port Phillip Bay
glorious sunsets of Port Phillip Bay

In May we set off for our annual trip to New Zealand. The North Island is still wonderfully clement in May, and as the prices for hiring a motor home plummet to $30 a day, it’s a mere hop, step and jump to fly to Auckland and then on to the glorious bays of the North. The natural scenery in New Zealand is breathtaking. And the local seafood is pretty tasty too. We have decided that NZ is not to be classed as an overseas trip since we share the same sea and a few relatives as well. Thanks Rachael, Andrew and Renato for monitoring things at home.

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Thats
I’m always keen to hunt for shellfish!

On returning from New Zealand, things turned rather cold in Melbourne and it was just as well we had our holiday booked for Thailand, China and Indonesia. After a few days experiencing Bangkok and its Coup, we headed off to China for a few weeks in Yunnan province and then a further two weeks with our wonderful friends, Tia and Carol in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The food, the glorious days in ancient walled cities: China stole my heart. Thanks Tia and 松树 for the wonderful long drive through the countryside of Sichuan, and Carol and husband for the great trips around Chengdu. Also thanks to Richard and Jo Jo for the great day out at the Panda zoo in Chengdu.

Ma Po Dofu
Ma Po Dofu

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Night market food stall in Kunming.
Night market food stall in Kunming.


On the way back from China home, we called into Indonesia again for a month, this time in Pemuteran in the North coast of Bali, an ideal spot to snorkel, dive and relax. This area is not a major tourist destination- unlike some of the other hotspots in Bali. It is restful, shopping free and remote. We also flew over to the island of Flores, followed by a lazy week back in Sanur. Thanks Helen for being such a relaxing and easy-going travel companion and to Rosalie and Ian for your great company and friendship too.

Balinese culture endures, despite the tourist influx.
Balinese culture endures, despite the tourist influx.

We did stay put for six weeks of Melbourne winter and then headed off to the outback, via South Australia, a rather slow meander through lovely countryside. It’s good to be a toursit in your own country.

Baby emus in the Flinders Ranges
Baby emus in the Flinders Ranges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA quick five day trip to the Murray River with family in November, saw the cousins get along in the great outdoors.

A bend in the Murray River
A bend in the Murray River

And in December, our annual trip to my favourite beach, Lake Tyers, in Gippsland provided a fitting finale to the year, along with a side trip to Paynesville and Raymond Island to visit the land of our great grandparents. Thanks Kerrie and Bruce for sharing this trip with us.

A Double rainbow. over the fifty mile beach at Lake Tyers, Gippsland, Australia.
A double rainbow arches over the fifty mile beach at Lake Tyers, Gippsland, Australia.
The iviting h=jetty at Fishermans Landing
The inviting jetty at Fishermans Landing. A good spot for a picnic.

And thank you my dear readers if you got through this rather long and indulgent New Year’s Eve Post. I hope you had a great year too. Best wishes for the next one. Capo d’anno. F xx