Gado gado is a hearty cooked vegetable salad from Indonesia. The delicious peanut sauce has a small amount of pungent belacan (fermented and dried shrimp paste) that adds a complex flavour, but if you're vegetarian, it can be omitted (although it won't be quite as delicious). If you're vegan, you can also skip the boiled eggs.
This recipe is by food stylist Vivian Herijanto.
Finely mince the onion and garlic, and chop the bird's-eye chillies. Put the tamarind pulp into a bowl, add 60ml (¼ cup) hot water and stir well, pressing on the pulp to extract as much flavour as possible. Leave to steep for about five minutes, then strain through a sieve. Measure out 30ml (2tbsp) of the liquid.
Put the belacan (if using) in an unoiled skillet over a medium flame. Use the tip of a wooden spoon to crumble the belacan into small pieces. Stir almost constantly to heat and toast the belacan, then transfer it to a small dish.
Place the skillet (no need to wash it) over a medium flame and pour in the cooking oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and pale golden, stirring often. Turn off the flame.
Put the peanut butter in a pan and add the water. Bring to the boil over a medium flame and stir until smooth. Turn off the flame then add the onion/garlic, belacan (if using), sugar, coconut milk, kecap manis and tamarind juice, then season lightly with salt. Place over a low flame and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until thick but spoonable. Taste for seasonings and adjust, if necessary. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Put the eggs (if using) in a saucepan that is just large enough to hold them in one layer with a little room to "swim". Add enough water to cover the eggs by 2cm (⅞in). Place the plan over a medium flame and bring the water to the boil. Take the pan from the heat, cover with the lid and leave for nine minutes. Pour off the water then put the pan under a stream of cool running water. When the eggs are no longer hot, crack the shells all over, but do not peel them yet. Fill the pan with water and add ice cubes, then place the eggs in the iced water (they peel better when cold).
Slice the bean curd about 1cm (7/16in) thick. Heat about 15ml (1tbsp) of oil in a skillet placed over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, pan-fry the bean curd on both sides until golden brown. Take the pieces from the skillet and place them on a plate.
Remove the tips and tails from the bean sprouts. If the string beans are tough, snap off the ends and pull off the strings. Cut the string beans in half.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over a high flame. Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds then use shallow sieve or large slotted ladle to scoop them out of the water. Drain, rinse with cold water then drain again. Squeeze the bean sprouts in your hands to remove the excess water, then place them on a plate. Put the string beans in the same pot of boiling water and cook for two minutes. Scoop them out of the pot, rinse with cold water and drain. Add the spinach to the boiling water and blanch for about a minute, or until wilted. Scoop the spinach from the water then drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Place the potatoes in the same pot of boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. If you like, strip the skin from the potatoes while they are still warm. Cut the potatoes into thick slices.
Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Peel the cucumbers then slice them on the diagonal. Peel the eggs (if using) and cut them into quarters.
Lay the spinach, string beans and bean sprouts on a serving dish then add the bean curd, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and egg (if using).
Spoon some of the warm sauce over the ingredients, then put the remaining sauce into a bowl. Serve with fried prawn crackers, if you like.