I remember flicking through recipe books when I was a child, reading up on how Marguerite Patten made lasagne. Later I would have multiple books open as I cross-referenced different recipes for the same dish.
We get sold versions of traditional recipes, they get changed and manipulated according to availability of ingredients, trends and even sometimes the writers' or chefs' preferences and style. Of course, there really is no substitute for going to Italy and tasting the real deal, seeing pasta being hand-made and smelling a slow-cooked beef ragù simmering for hours.
I pored over multiple recipes researching this week’s Indonesian dish, Gado Gado. It’s part of the process and the bit I love most. I read up on who uses cabbage, who cooks it, who leaves it raw; getting to know a dish inside out. I love how massively helpful social media apps are when it comes to this.
By simply searching for the hashtag #GadoGado on Instagram and Tiktok I'm instantly transported to a Californian raw food vegan restaurant doing their version of the dish, and stalls on the bustling streets of Jakarta, where women are skilfully shearing whole husks of corn and thinly slicing cucumber with a flick of the wrist and a huge chopping knife, over a massive pan of simmering peanut sauce.
I also get to see into the kitchen of a German couple as they try to recreate the dish from their honeymoon. Another girl films as her grandmother shares their family recipe. This is all priceless to me. It is hugely beneficial and endlessly informative.
I get to see that the sauce should be quite thick and textured, just like commenters wrote on Jamie Oliver’s 2018 version of the dish. Some of the vegetables are cooked and not all raw. These small details are what makes a recipe what it is, and what makes a culture cherish and value it. It’s their comfort food, their grandmothers’ cooking, their home cooking.
I had tasted this Indonesian dish years ago and wanted to make it to kick off salad season, but didn’t have the recipe. So now, with multiple reference points from books to videos, I’m sharing this gorgeous recipe that I settled on after tweaking until the sauce tasted like I remembered it.
It may seem like a bit of work assembling everything, but the end result is delicious and you can make it as simple as you’d like. You can use leftover potatoes with green beans and tofu or egg for protein with that delicious sauce. A real taste of summer.
Recipe: Gado Gado