Vegan food has come a fair old way in the last few years. Back in early 2000’s, it seemed so extreme that many viewed it as an affliction rather than a lifestyle choice. And who could blame them? Back then vegetarians were still very much an afterthought on restaurant menus, so how were their plant-based cousins going to get a look-in? But the tide is turning. Not only has the first month of the year been renamed ‘Veganuary’ (on some calendars at least), but the number of mindblowing plant-based recipes and restaurants is proliferating.
Last month I headed over to Bali to research (ahem) a few recipes and stumbled across a jewel in the herbivorous crown: the Gado Gado at The Hanging Gardens of Bali.
If you’ve ever heard of The Hanging Gardens before it could be because you’ve seen it in any number of lifestyle magazines / dream Pinterest boards or vacation wishlists. With secluded rainforest spa rooms, eternally smiley staff and the most breathtaking infinity pool I’ve ever seen it’s little wonder. But this destination is no one-trick pony.
The internationally trained kitchen brigade are taking local dishes and ingredients to create a menu that’ll knock your sarong off. Enter The Hanging Gardens Gado Gado.
This dish is an absolute Balinese staple and you can find myriad iterations all over the island. The key ingredient is tempeh, a soy-based ‘cake’ of sorts that’s been used in Indonesian cooking for hundreds of years. If you’re a carnivore looking to temper your meat consumption this is a great substitute. Add some little boiled potatoes, an egg, some fresh salad leaves and top it with a spicy peanutty sauce and hey presto you’re done!
In my most daring piece of investigative journalism yet I cornered the head chef for their recipe and he gave up the goods…
1 small handful of green beans, top and tail and blanched
1 small handful of bean sprouts, blanched
1 small handful of white cabbage, shredded and blanched
1 potato, 1cm diced and boiled
80g tempeh, thinly sliced (under 1cm)
1 carrot, chopped into matchsticks and blanched
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
3 red radishes, sliced into micro thin discs
1 small handful of watercress
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
2 tbsps sweet soya sauce
100g crunchy peanut butter
2 tsps fried crunchy shallots
2 tsps fried crunchy garlic
First off, slice the tempeh widthways just over ½ cm. Fry them in a few tbsps of coconut oil and a light sprinkle of salt on medium heat for around 15 minutes until crunchy, then remove.
Meanwhile, prep and blanche all of the veggies. ‘Blanching’ is a really quick and easy method of cooking. Simply bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil with 1 tbsp of salt and plunge the ingredients in. As soon as it comes back up to the boil time the cooking for 30 seconds only, then remove the ingredients with a slotted spoon (the one with holes in it) and put those ingredients in ice water to stop them cooking. It sounds like faff, but it’s really easy. Drain the veggies (and put them in a salad spinner if you have one) before serving.
Next make the satay sauce by mixing the crunchy peanut butter (they make theirs fresh at Hanging Gardens but this makes it quicker) with the sweet soya sauce and a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk until you have a consistency like honey).
Put the carrot, cabbage, green beans, bean sprouts, potato, fried garlic and fried
shallot in a large mixing bowl and season with ¼ tsp of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Add the half satay mixture and very gently fold the ingredients together. Place the veggies on your plates on top of the sliced cucumber and top with the cherry tomatoes, radishes, watercress and tempeh.
Top with more satay sauce and serve with vegan prawn crackers on the side. If you would like a non-vegan option you can top with boiled egg too.
P.S. Once Veganuary has finished you might want to try their high tea too (see below!)