While the red cabbage may not get points for being the most superficially alluring vegetable to grace the produce shelves as of late, inside it’s got something else going on. Past the skin of the red (or more accurately, purple) cabbage lies the intricate story of its growth. Past the clean edge of the knife is a cruciferous labyrinth that I wish for a moment I was small enough to walk.
Though usually associated with Eastern European dishes, red cabbage fares well in all sorts of international cuisine. I’ve seen it on Mexican menus, and in Asian concoctions like the Gado-Gado I will share with you today. Gado-Gado is dear to me. It reminds me of a certain roommate who introduced me to it years ago, and also of health. One blustery evening in Winnipeg I returned home from a vigorous workout to find this colorful dish waiting for me by candlelight.
It had everything: protein fiber, and too many vitamins and minerals to name. It nourished me fully, in body and spirit. With crunch, nuttiness, saltiness and sweetness shining through purple, orange, green and white, Gado-Gado is a little world on a plate.
According to various sources, gado-gado means either “fight fight,” “hodgepodge,” or “to mix together.” It’s fascinating how words breed meanings often different from the original; to mix, to argue. But let’s not get too wrapped up in specifics — we’ve got some hodgepodging to do. For Gado-Gado, in all its mystery, is really just salad with peanut dressing.
After the preparation, the layers unfold, starting with a base of Wehani rice and the illustrious cabbage:
For the sauce:
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 shallots (or 1 small white onion) chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 inch ginger root, grated
½ cup natural peanut butter
1 ½ Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1tsp light brown sugar
¼ tsp cayenne (or more if you like the heat)
¾ cup coconut milk
For the salad:
2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup small cauliflower florets
2 carrots, shredded
2 cups thinly shredded purple cabbage
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 handfuls baby spinach
*2 cups cooked rice, optional for a more filling main course
*1 hard boiled egg per person, sliced, optional
Prepare the peanut sauce:
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger. Cover and cook until soft. Stir in peanut butter, tamari or soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, cayenne and coconut milk. Simmer over low for 2 minutes, stirring to blend.
- Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor, puree until smooth, adding water or coconut milk to thin if needed. (*this sauce is great to keep on hand for thai pizza, noodle-y stir fries, or whatever your imagination conjures up. It will last for a few days in the fridge.)
Prepare the salad:
- Steam the beans and cauliflower (and red cabbage if you prefer it a little soft) until just tender and set aside. In a large glass bowl or on top of a large plate, layer cooked rice, spinach, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and green beans. (The order doesn’t matter much, be creative!) Pour the sauce over the vegetables and serve, sprinkled with bean sprouts and chopped peanuts and topped with the eggs if you choose to include them. This dish can be layered in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Take it out 15 minutes before serving to let it come to just cooler than room temperature, and dress with the slightly warm peanut sauce just prior to serving.