Dream of the Med while dip­ping and dunk­ing

There is a fa­mous Provençal dish called ‘Le Grand Ai­oli’ that com­bines a may­on­naise with a colour­ful ar­ray of fresh and cooked veg­eta­bles, meat or fish. Hen­nie Fisher ex­per­i­ments

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ON MANY lev­els Le Grand Ai­oli is a com­pos­ite dish that rep­re­sents the Mediter­ranean life­style in which food al­ways plays an in­te­gral part, but at the same time re­mains sim­ple to pre­pare (of­ten be­ing served at room tem­per­a­ture) and en­joy.

Le Grand Ai­oli is of­ten placed on the ta­ble in a large bowl (or even in the mor­tar it was made in) sur­rounded by all things fresh and de­li­cious to be dunked into the mayo: th­ese in­clude radishes, fen­nel, cock­tail to­ma­toes, hard-boiled eggs, boiled pota­toes, blanched green beans, blanched car­rot sticks, ar­ti­chokes, beet­root, cau­li­flower, some sort of white fish (of­ten salt cod, poached), snails, mus­sels or clams, shrimp or crab — the list goes on.

In a con­tin­u­ous search for food that is sim­i­larly sim­ple and fuss free, and that can be served al fresco with drinks as the sun hits the hori­zon (while imag­in­ing that one lives on the Mediter­ranean) this ver­sion of a fa­mous In­done- sian salad was found. Mean­ing mix-mix, “gado-gado” is a onedish meal found on street cor­ners and in house­holds from Malaysia to In­done­sia.

Gado-gado is de­scribed as an In­done­sian ex­trav­a­ganza, and rightly so — the sauce is at the same time slightly pun­gent and hot, but mel­low and rich with a deep earth­i­ness em­a­nat­ing from the shrimp paste, palm sugar and tamarind. This is a dish that is dif­fi­cult to de­scribe since ev­ery per­son in­vari­ably has their own opin­ion of it.

Recipe books ei­ther cat­e­gorise it as a salad in which case most of the in­gre­di­ents should be mixed to­gether with the sauce, while oth­ers pro­pose that it should be served in the man­ner of a Grand Ai­oli with an ar­ray of cooked or raw veg­eta­bles on the side. Opin­ions dif­fer as to what a real gado­gado should con­tain.

Per­haps gado-gado is just one of those com­plex dishes that one has to ac­cept comes with as many vari­a­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties as there are peo­ple want­ing to eat it. Per­haps in­stead of try­ing to recre­ate the most cor­rect ver­sion, it may be sim­pler to make your own and savour the un­usual flavours and tex­tures that it of­fers.

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