Happy holidays, everyone!
This holiday has been so peaceful for me, spending some nice relaxing time with my mom and boyfriend while it is pouring outside. The rain is fantastic because 1) I have an excuse to lounge around indoors and update my blog and 2) I have an excuse not to rake those leaves that my mom thinks I should rake! Happy holidays to me, indeed.
I think holidays should be about sharing food and laughs with family and friends, but since most of my family is spread far across the world, I wanted to share a recipe with everyone. That way, anyone can pretend that they are spending Christmas with me, just by making this recipe!
Gado-gado is an Indonesian dish traditionally made with vegetables, fried tofu, tempeh, dried shrimp, eggs, steamed potatoes, and a peanut sauce, but I decided to veganize and California-ize this dish. It’s an extremely flexible dish that I encourage you to play with, and you can make this recipe out of old vegetable or protein in your fridge. (Unless you are serving it to an Indonesian person, in which case, I take no credit for bastardizing their dish…) Raw zucchini, roasted eggplant, and summer tomatoes are just a few ingredients that would go wonderfully with this salad. If you’re allergic to peanuts, feel free to make this with roasted walnut butter or roasted almond butter, and sprinkle some roasted cashews on top. It’s also gluten free as long as you make sure to use a wheat free soy sauce. Nothing says Christmas in California better than cool, slightly sweet jicama, warm slightly seared and crusty tofu, toasted walnuts, and a peanut sauce with a kick.
Also, this recipe can be made with nothing more than a good sharp knife, a bowl, and a fork, so clean-up is a breeze. For those of you unfamiliar with watching a lot of Food Network, this recipe requires you to julienne the jicama and the carrots, which is just a fancy word for, “Cut into long thin strips.” This creates a large surface area for the vegetables to get coated with sauce and looks aesthetically pleasing, but if your knife skills are not up to the challenge, this salad will taste equally good in block shapes.
The jicama is a little unwieldy, so first chop off both the pointed ends, then slice in half vertically. I then find it easiest to peel the jicama by slicing off the skin with a knife rather than with a vegetable peeler because jicama is so fibrous that it clogs my vegetable peeler up. Then slice the jicama into thin half moons, then slice into sticks. Also, another quick tip: buy a small jicama, or else you will have so much julienned jicama you won’t know what to do with it. I bought a medium sized jicama and I had jicama for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and there is still more jicama in the fridge. Another awesome tip: you can cut up the jicama way ahead of time because it does not brown after cutting it. I have left it in my fridge for two days and it still has not browned.
Some people wonder how to get their tofu to have a nice crust on it without subjecting themselves to the horror of at-home deep frying. A lot of people complain that their tofu sticks to their pan, especially if they are not using a non-stick pan. Never fear, with my technique, you can get seared tofu with even a cast iron pan that has been treated badly!
First, get some firm or extra-firm tofu. Anything else will dissolve into globlets of unhappiness when you try to fry it. Next, cut open the box and slice the tofu into slices about 1/2″ thick. Lay them out on a paper towel, sprinkle salt over them, cover with more paper towel, and wait for 10 minutes. The salt is important; it draws out the extra water through osmosis! The point of this is to prevent the tofu from being overly wet when you place it in the pan, because then you run the risk of the tofu slowly boiling in its own juices rather than searing and forming a nice crust. After your tofu is nice and dry, heat your pan to medium-high, pour 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil on the bottom, and WAIT UNTIL YOUR PAN IS HOT, then put the tofu in the pan. Each side should take about 2-3 minutes. Ta-da!
For the Salad Mixture:
- 1 small jicama, julienned
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 large cucumber, sliced into rounds
- 1/4 bag bean sprouts
- 4 sprigs green onions, julienned
- 1 package of firm or extra-firm tofu, seared and sliced into long strips
- 3 leaves of butter lettuce
- 2 limes
- 1/2 cup roasted walnuts
- other possibilities: zucchini, tomatoes, Thai basil, tempeh, roasted eggplant…
For the Sauce:
- 3/4 cup peanut butter, chunky
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola oil or vegetable oil
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 4 cloves garlic, thoroughly squished
- 1 tsp dried red chili flakes
- 2 tsp brown or palm sugar
- 1 tsp soy sauce (if gf, use wheat-free soy sauce)
- optional: 1 tsp dark soy sauce (you can replace with regular)
- pinch of turmeric (for color)
- pinch of curry powder (for that je ne sais quoi!)
- salt to taste
1. Squeeze the juice of one lime all over the julienned jicama to balance the slight sweetness of the jicama with the acidity of the lime.
2. To make the sauce: Whisk the peanut butter with the oil with a fork, then slowly add in the coconut milk. You might have to add a little water at the end to thin the consistency. Add in the garlic, chili flakes, brown sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, turmeric, and curry powder.
3. To serve, arrange all the cut vegetables and tofu on a platter, then drizzle the sauce on top, and then garnish with the roasted walnuts and cut wedges of lime. Mix the gado-gado in front of your dazzled and happy guests, then serve.