I had seen gado-gado on several menus here in Bali, but it’s description was a little lackluster- “boiled vegetables with peanut sauce”- so I avoided it for probably the first two weeks we were here. It wasn’t until I left a review on TripAdvisor for one of our favorite restaurants in Amed (Bliss Cafe) that I decided to try it. Another reviewer left a comment saying their gado-gado was outstanding, so I decided to give it a shot. I am so glad that I did, I would hate to miss out on this epic salad.
This is a salad, but at the same time so much more than a salad- it is what all salads should aspire to be. Loaded with veggie goodness (including those all important cruciferous veggies) and plenty of lean protein this salad is seasonal, hearty and completely filling.
It is incredibly versatile- whatever seasonal veggies are available, steamed to a perfect tender-crisp and served with protein rich tempeh, tofu and hard-boiled egg. All of this is tied together with a creamy, rich, hint of spicy peanut sauce- the perfect complement to this salad.
Need another reason to try it? Here are a few-
Cruciferous Veggies– from bok choy to cabbage to kai lan, gado-gado is chock full of cruciferous veggies. This pungent veggies get their aroma and spicy, slightly bitter taste from sulfur containing compounds called glycosinolates. Studies have found that glycosinolates can help protect DNA by eliminating damaging carcinogens before they have a chance to damage DNA. One study found that they increased excretion of a potential carcinogen that is found in well-done meat.
Cruciferous veggies also inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells, help prevent colorectal cancer and reduce the risk of lung cancer.
They are also a source of seriously beneficial nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, selenium and folate. Folate is important for women of child bearing age as it is really important for healthy fetal development. For everyone it is an important nutrient for brain function at all stages of life- from brain development to healthy aging and disease prevention.
Tempeh– A great alternative to the bland taste and texture of tofu, if you have never tried this vegetarian protein now is the time! Hailing from Indonesia, it’s unique, nutty flavor and textured bite go perfectly in this dish. It is made from cooked, fermented soybeans. It is high in (complete) protein, calcium, copper and manganese.
The fermentation adds an extra layer of health benefits to this already potent protein- fermented foods are rich in enzymes, healthy bacteria and they provide food for the healthy bacteria in the gut. The healthy bacteria not only help keep your digestive system happy and healthy, they also help “pre-digest” foods during the fermentation process (not as gross as it sounds) and make them easier on your digestive system. A healthy gut comes from well fed, healthy bacteria and can mean reduced inflammation, allergy relief, a reduction in autoimmune disorders and improved digestion. Fermented foods fortify the intestinal barrier and prevent toxins and microbes from escaping and protect against stress related changes in gut flora. They may even play a role in protecting against anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Other fermented foods to try include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and umeboshi.
Peanuts– Poor, poor peanuts. They get bashed so much, and unless you have an allergy there is no reason to avoid these high fiber, high protein legumes. In the case of gado-gado, they add a rich creaminess and heart healthy fats. They are a source of more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals. Their fiber, protein and fat combo helps to increase satiety- really helpful if you are looking to lose weight. In fact, studies have shown that diets that are higher in fat result in greater and more sustained weight loss than low fat diets (my guess- it probably has a lot to do with that satiety!). Another bonus if you are looking to lose some weight- one study found that after eating peanuts subjects had an increased resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories your body burns from normal daily processes- chemical reactions, temperature maintenance, blinking, etc.). Essentially, they burned more calories just from eating peanuts.
Need more convincing? Check out these gorgeous recipes (note how ridiculously versatile this salad is!) and try a taste of Bali for yourself- you will not regret it, I promise!