10 July 2010
While I have yet to visit Indonesia, I fell in love with Indonesian cuisine during my first trip to Amsterdam about 7 years ago. Reflecting the diversity of its people, Indonesian cuisine has also been influenced by the many peoples who have explored, colonized and traded on it shores - including the Indians, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Spanish, the Portuguese and of course the Dutch. It's no surprise then that Indonesian cuisine is the ultimate fusion cuisine!
One of the main ingredients of Indonesian cuisine is peanut sauce, known locally as bumbu kacang. It features heavily in many Indonesian classics, including satay, sambals and the famous indonesian salad known as gado-gado. I think I first encountered gado-gado at one of Washington's many "Pan-Asian" restaurants, then enjoyed it at Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and was recently reminded of it in Dakar (Senegal) of all places, during a dinner at the Institut Français de Dakar. Talk about globalization!
I made my own version of gado-gado the other night, along with a vegetarian nasi goreng (indonesian fried rice), and the results were splendid! The recipe is below. Of course, if you are feeling lazy but would love to try some Indonesian food here in Paris, check out Djakarta Bali, an exquisite Indonesian restaurant near Les Halles.
FOR MARINATED TOFU
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or sweet/hot chili sauce
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, crushed
Sugar to taste
8 ounces (250 grams) package firm tofu
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Chop the tofu into cubes and place in the marinade, making sure to coat the cubes fully. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, periodically tossing. Lay onto a lightly greased baking sheet and place in oven. After 15 minutes, turn the cubes onto their other side and bake 15 minutes before. Tofu is done when it has a grilled texture and golden-brown color. When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
FOR PEANUT SAUCE
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce (ideally low-sodium)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sambal oelek or other chile paste with garlic
4 garlic cloves, minced
Combine these ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens into a smooth, warm consistency. Set aside.
A few boiled potatoes
1 red bell pepper, cut into long strips
1/2 red onion, cut into long strips
1/2 cucumber, cut into long strips
2-3 small carrots, grated
Handful of bean sprouts
Place each salad ingredient (tofu, potatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts) in a separate, colorful bowl. Pass the peanut dressing on the side. Each person can assemble their own salad.