A little taste of Bali

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Back in April, I went to Bali for a week. I spent the first 4 days in a place called Lovina which is situated on the northern coast. I then spent the next 3 days in Ubud which is just south of the centre of the island. As is the case with most new places I go, I was apprehensive about the food. Would it be predominantly meat and fish based? Would they use animal fats in dishes? Will I actually be able to eat anything at all?!?

The Balinese use a lot of fish within their cuisine. As Lovina is a small fishing town, the restaurants buy fresh fish from the local fisherman to use in their heavily fish-based menus. On my first night, I went to this beautiful little restaurant, the name of which I fail to remember unfortunately!

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I scanned the menu, desperately hoping for a meal that did not contain fish. I was intrigued by the sound of a dish called Gado Gado which consists of vegetables, tofu and egg in a creamy peanut sauce along with rice. The dish is usually served with shrimp crackers but I requested that the waitress omits those, leaving my dish veggie friendly! Delicious!

After reminiscing about Bali recently, I thought I’d attempt to recreate Gado Gado today. I managed to track down some vegetarian spicy crackers too, adding a further dash of authenticity to to the dish. There are many Gado Gado recipes available online; I took inspiration from BBC Food and The Good Food Channel but put my own spin on it as I wanted to make it as close as possible to the Gado Gado that I had in Lovinia.

As there are many different elements to this dish it can be quite time consuming but definitely worth it in the end. The ingredients below make enough for 3 portions.

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 tbs oil
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushes
1/2 a red chilli, chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, chopped
300g crunchy peanut butter
Half a can of coconut milk
A pinch of paprika
A pinch of sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup of water

OTHER INGREDIENTS
4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
100g green beans
150g tofu
A pinch of tumeric
4 eggs, hard boiled and cut into halves
A few sprigs of coriander to garnish
Vegetarian spicy crackers
A few slices of cucumber
A cup of white rice

METHOD
1) To make the sauce, heat the oil in the pan and gently sizzle the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger for 2 minutes and then transfer to a food processor.
2) Add a drop of water and then blitz until a lumpy paste forms.
3) Add the lemongrass, paprika, peanut butter and coconut milk and continue to blend until the mixture has formed a smooth consistency.
4) Add a small drop of water at a time until the sauce has the thickness of double cream. This can now be set aside and reheated when ready to use.
5) To ensure the tofu maintains a firm texture, wrap in kitchen roll then place a plate on top, allowing it to drain sufficiently.
6) Once drained, cut into cubes and place on a baking tray with a little oil drizzled on top.
7) Place under the grill until lightly golden on each side. The tofu pieces can also be set aside and reheated when ready.
8) Boil the potatoes and green beans with the tumeric for around 20 minutes, until soft.
9) To make sticky rice, place the cup of rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly then allow to drain. Place in a pan with 1 cup of water and bring to the boil with a lid on. Gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, place a clean cloth over the pan with the lid on top and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

TIP: I wanted to make a neat dome with the rice so compacted some into a small wine glass and tipped onto a plate. It worked!

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To serve, add the cucumber, vegetables, tofu, egg and crackers to the plate. Pour some sauce over the vegetables and tofu and enjoy!

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Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate any Bintang Bali beer in the UK so I had to make do with a standard brand of lager. Nevertheless, I still have my Bintang beer cooler so it was just like being back in Bali. Until I looked out the window of course…!

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