Loosely based on the classic Indonesian salad, this dish is a riot of flavours celebrating the best of Spring produce. New potatoes, broad beans, asparagus, bean sprouts, and spring greens slathered in a salty, spicy, sweet and tangy peanut sauce, with marinated tofu, fresh mint and chilli.
Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian salad, usually made with a boiled egg, steamed or blanched vegetables and potatoes, fried tofu or tempeh, and a spicy peanut sauce. There are numerous variations, additions and accoutrements, but the general vibe is lots of flavour and texture, and a big creamy, spicy, and punchy sauce coating everything. It’s completely over the top and entirely wonderful.
For this vegan version I am omitting the egg, and the fish sauce or shrimp you find in some peanut sauce recipes, and I don’t believe that the recipe is any the worse for it. The vegetables are some of my favourite spring gems, but you can switch them up depending on what you have available to you. In winter I’ll often roast potatoes and root vegetables, and throw in some kale at the last minute to crisp. In summer you can start to add sugar snap peas, green beans, grilled courgettes or some crunchy radishes. Essentially, there are very few vegetables that this peanut sauce won’t enhance, and however far you end up from traditional versions of the recipe, you’re still going to have something gloriously tasty on your plate.
How to make spring gado gado
For this recipe I always start by marinating the tofu. You could skip this and just fry it, but I much prefer my tofu infused with a bit of flavour. In a shallow dish, whisk together some soy sauce, a splash of lime juice and some syrup – maple, agave, or brown rice all work well. Chop the tofu into batons and thoroughly coat in the marinade, leave for 10 mins or so, then flip so the other side has a chance to soak up some of the juice.
Next, wash the new potatoes and halve any larger ones. You want them all to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Place in a saucepan with plenty of water and salt, and a few springs of fresh mint. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the potatoes are just cooked. How long will depend on the size and variety of your potatoes, and it’s not always easy to judge. I start checking after 7 minutes – if you spear a potato with a fork then try to shake it off, if it’s cooked it should slide off the fork fairly easily. If it needs a bit longer it will remain stubbornly in place (be careful if using this method to avoid being scolded by boiling water as cooked potatoes are launched back into the saucepan). Scoop out the cooked potatoes and put them in a bowl or dish to cool a little, and reserve the cooking water for the rest of the vegetables.
The easiest way to cook the vegetables is simply to boil them all in the same pan. Start with the broad beans – you can use either fresh or frozen and they take about the same amount of time to cook. I don’t tend to bother double-podding them, particularly early on in the season when the beans are smaller and the skins are tender. Larger broad beans can have tougher skins and if that bothers you, it’s easiest to do the second podding once the beans have cooked and cooled.
Otherwise, add the broad beans to the minty potato water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the asparagus tips and reduce the heat slightly to medium, then after 2 minutes add the shredded spring greens (you can use any other leafy greens you like). Finally, after another minute add the beansprouts, just for 30 seconds. Drain everything and refresh with a splash of cold water. If you have a tiered steamer, you could put the broad beans in water on the bottom tier, and steam the asparagus, spring greens, and bean sprouts. This may take a minute or two longer – the most important thing is that you want the asparagus to be just tender.
I sometimes find that salads using blanched, steamed or boiled vegetables can be a little soggy. If you cool the vegetables thoroughly under cold water then you miss the opportunity for their heat to allow some of the excess liquid to evaporate. I prefer to slightly undercook them, and then let them cool a little in a large shallow dish or platter. I prefer this salad served warm so I don’t let them to cool entirely, but a few minutes while I fry the tofu is usually enough.
While the vegetables are boiling, I put a frying pan over a medium to high heat with a dash of oil, and once hot, add the marinated tofu, and fry for 1–2 minutes on each side. For the sauce, I simply bung all of the ingredients – peanut butter, kecap manis, soya sauce, lime juice, fresh chilli, sugar and water – in a high speed blender or food processor and whizz until it’s completely smooth. If you don’t have kecap manis, which is a thick and sweet indonesian soy sauce, you can replace it with regular soya sauce and dark sugar (molasses or date syrup work well but regular sugar will do).
Then it’s simply a case of piling everything together. I mix the potatoes and vegetables together with a generous scattering of fresh mint and coriander. The fried, slightly caramelised tofu batons go on top, followed by a sprinkling of sliced red chilli and crispy fried onions (you can make these yourself but you can also buy them pre-cooked, and they are really crunchy and really convenient). You could add a few crushed salted peanuts if you like, or some rice crackers.
Then everything gets liberally drizzled in the spicy, tangy, salty and slightly sweet peanut sauce. I always have the extra sauce in a bowl on the table so people can add more as they please, as well as any extra toppings to scatter and sprinkle.
This is such a great meal for this time of year – it can be served warm and has enough substance for colder spring days, but is a little lighter and fresher, hinting at the warmer weather and vibrant produce around the corner. It’s also a great picnic option; you can dress it before you leave the house without worrying about anything wilting or going soggy, and all you really need is a large container and a few forks.
Please let me know if you give this a try! I would love to hear what you think, and any feedback is appreciated. You can comment below, use the star rating at the top of this post, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Spring Gado Gado
New potatoes, broad beans, asparagus, bean sprouts, and spring greens slathered in a salty, spicy, sweet and tangy peanut sauce, with marinated tofu, fresh mint and chilli.
For the salad*:
- 200g (7oz) firm tofu (I used Tofoo which doesn’t need pressing)
- 2 tbsp tamari (or soya sauce)
- ½ tbsp from juice of 1 lime
- ½ tbsp syrup (maple / agave / brown rice)
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
- 300g (10½ oz) new potatoes
- 20g fresh mint
- 100g (½ cup) broad beans (fresh or frozen)
- 100g (approx 10 fine spears) asparagus
- 100g (1½ cups) greens (spring greens, collard greens, kale, spinach, cabbage)
- 200g (1½ cups) bean sprouts
For the peanut sauce:
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 bird’s eye chilli
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp kecap manis (or 2 tsp tamari and 1 tsp molasses, date syrup or brown sugar)
- 1 tsp tamari (or soya sauce)
- ½ tsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 2–3 tsp water
- small bunch fresh coriander
- 1 red chilli, finely sliced
- 25g crispy fried onions
- 25g salted peanuts, crushed
- Start by slicing the tofu into batons (about 1–2 cm wide). In a shallow dish, whisk together 2 tbsp tamari and ½ tbsp syrup. Juice a lime and add ½ tbsp juice, reserving the rest for the peanut sauce. Coat the tofu batons, then leave to marinade, turning the batons over after 10 minutes.
- Scrub 300g new potatoes clean, and chop any larger ones so they are all roughly the same size. Place in a large saucepan with plenty of salted water and half of the fresh mint (about 10g). Bring to the boil, then simmer until just cooked – I start checking after 7 minutes, and you can tell if they are cooked when a speared potato will slide off a fork fairly easily.
- While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the vegetables. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus, and halve any particularly fat stems lengthwise. Measure out the broad beans and the bean sprouts, and roughly chop your greens.
- For the sauce, roughly chop 1 birds eye chilli and grate the small garlic clove. Add this to a high speed blender cup or small food processor bowl, along with 3 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp kecap manis, 1 tsp tamari, ½ tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp of juice from the previously juiced lime, and 2 tbsp water. Whizz until completely smooth, adding a little more water as necessary until the sauce has an easily drizzleable consistency. Taste and add a little more tamari, lime juice or sugar as necessary.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a separate bowl or dish, reserving the cooking water. Add the broad beans to the cooking water and bring to the boil, then add the asparagus and reduce to a medium heat and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the greens. Cook for a further 1 minute, then add the bean sprouts just for 30 seconds. Drain the vegetables and spread on a large, shallow platter to steam dry.
- Put a frying pan over a medium–high heat with 1 tbsp oil, and once hot, add the marinated tofu. Fry each side for 1–2 minutes until golden brown and starting to char at the edges. Roughly chop the remaining 1og mint and a small bunch of coriander, slice a red chilli, grab some crispy onions and crush some salted peanuts.
- In a large dish or platter, mix the potatoes and vegetables. Scatter over the fresh mint and coriander, the fried tofu, and the red chilli and peanut. Drizzle the peanut sauce over everything, serving any remaining sauce in a small bowl on the side of the salad. I like to serve this salad warm but you can also leave everything to cool completely before tucking in.
*The vegetables and herbs are suggestions for Spring, but you can use whatever you fancy depending on the time of year and what’s available. I particularly like roasting potatoes, celeriac or cauliflower, red cabbage and kale in the winter, or grilling courgettes, with raw sugar snap peas, radishes and rocket in the summer.