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Gado Gado Salad with Nut Free Sauce

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Gado gado is essentially a mixed vegetable Indonesian-style salad served with peanut sauce dressing. It is considered one of the top 5 national dish of Indonesia. In Indonesian language, the word gado-gado signifies “mix-mix”, medley or potpourri. The vegetables are usually lightly steamed, blanched or boiled to preserve the freshness, colour and crunch. Typically, types of vegetables used are cabbage, bean sprouts, fresh lettuce, fresh cucumber, water spinach (Kang Kong), green beans, spinach, bitter melon, cauliflower, watercress, carrots, and fresh tomatoes. Additional vegan accompaniments are lontong (rice cakes wrapped in banana leaf), fried or boiled potatoes, fried tofu, and fried tempeh. While vegetarian version frequently includes hard boiled eggs. With additional accompaniments added, gado gado is often consumed as a main dish as it is considered very filling. Garnish can include fish or prawn crackers and fried onion shallots. For some modern variations, red cabbage, capsicums, asparagus, zucchini, sweet potatoes or pumpkins and rice crackers can be added as well. Basically, any of your favourite veggies can be added to the dish. The old-style peanut sauce is prepared with fried mashed peanuts, palm sugar, garlic, chillies, salt, tamarind and some lime juice. Sometimes cashew nuts are added to create a milder and lightweight sauce.

For my gluten free recipe, my medley of vegetables are green bean, cabbage, red cabbage, cucumber, carrots, baked potatoes, fried tofu, and small red and golden gourmet tomatoes, making this a tasty, nutritious, attractive and colourful dish. A perfect dish or side dish for entertaining at home to impress your friends and family. For my nut free gado gado sauce, my ingredients are sunflower seeds, pepitas seeds (pumpkin seeds), sweet chilli sauce, coconut milk, coconut sugar, ginger, garlic and spices – turmeric powder, paprika powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. The sauce is creamy and full of flavour, you will not even notice that it is nut free. This recipe is not only naturally gluten free but also vegan, dairy free, egg free, nut free and refined sugar free. For soy free, simply omit the fried tofu and add some pumpkins for protein.

History of Gado Gado

The Gado gado dish was created in Batavia (a former name of Jakarta), by immigrants from other parts of Asia and Indonesia as well as slaves who were brought here by the Dutch and English spice traders during the 17th century. They are the original inhabitants of Batavia and started calling themselves people of Betawi in the 19th century. Gado gado was eaten by the Betawi population as a delicious, healthy and affordable dish. Traditionally, gado gado Betawi is considered a street food, today it is available on mobile food carts, in food courts of shopping malls, cafes, restaurants and even five star hotels. Gado gado is consumed all over Indonesia and worldwide with local adaptations.

Nutritional Values and Health Benefits

Carrot

The carrot (Daucus carota) is a root vegetable that belongs to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family. It originated from Asia, Europe and Africa and has been consumed as a food crop for more than 5,000 years ago. It is usually orange in colour, but they are also available in black, purple, red, yellow and white. We have always been repeatedly told by our mothers that carrots are “good for your eyes” on the dining table. This is because carrots are especially rich in beta carotene and alpha carotene, antioxidants which your body will convert to vitamin A. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B8 or H (Biotin), vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium and other antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. Health benefits of carrots comprise: support healthy eyesight; lower cholesterol level; regulate blood pressure; reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases; lower risks of cancer mainly leukemia, prostate, colon, stomach and breasts; boost the immune system; promote strong  teeth and bones; help detoxify the liver; promote skin health; detoxify the liver and aids in the treatment of diabetes.

Cucumber

The refreshing cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is an extensively grown plant in the gourd family named Cucurbitaceae. It originated from South Asia and is now cultivated all over the world. Cucumber is a very low in calorie, carbohydrate, sodium, dietary fiber and protein and has nearly zero fats. But it is very high in vitamin K and has 95% of water content. Cucumber is also a good source of Vitamin C and Potassium. In addition, it has reasonably good amount of vitamin A, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Furthermore, cucumbers has several antioxidants, including flavonoids, triterpenes, lignans, and cucurbitacins, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Health benefits of cucumber include: supports hydration for the body; maintains healthy blood pressure and lower risks of cardiovascular diseases; promotes healthy skin; supports healthy bones; assists in the management of diabetes; aids in weight management; helps combat inflammation in the body; improves digestive health and prevents constipation; reduces the risks of cancer; enhances memory and reduces the risks of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Green Bean

The beloved green bean is the immature edible pods of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) that belongs to the leguminous plant of the Fabaceae family. Other common names for green bean are French beans, string beans, snap beans and snaps. It originated in Central and South America where it has been cultivated for many thousands of years in Mexico and Peru. It is now grown and eaten worldwide. Green beans are high in dietary fiber, low in calories and contain protein. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, C and K and also a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folate, iron and manganese. Green beans also have some amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Health benefits of green beans consist of: reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases; promote healthy eyesight; may decrease risks of colon cancer; help manage diabetes; enhance bone health and prevent osteoporosis; increase fertility and manage pregnancy; treatment of anaemia; support wound healing; boost the immune system; defend against free radical damage and detoxify the body with its potent diuretic properties.

Potato

The humble potato or spud was originally cultivated in Peru for many thousands of years ago around 8,000 BC to 5,000 BC. In 1536, the Spanish conquerors of Peru brought potatoes back to Europe. Potato is a root vegetable, specifically the edible starchy tuber section of the Solanum tuberosum plant that belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshades family. Potato originated from both the North and South America and was cultivated around 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. Today, potato is ranked fourth as one of the world’s biggest and most important food crop, behind maize (corn), wheat and rice. Potatoes are now an important everyday food staple in our diet. Potatoes mainly comprised of 70%-80% water, complex carbohydrates (only 9% of the recommended daily value), with modest amount of dietary fiber and protein with almost zero fats, as well as sodium free and cholesterol free. The protein in potatoes encompass lysine, an essential amino acid usually lacking in vegetable protein. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (nearly half of your daily value) and a good source of potassium (more than a banana) and vitamin B6.

In addition, potatoes are abundant in bioactive plant compounds, primary focussed in the skin. The key polyphenol, a type of antioxidant present in potatoes is chlorogenic acid, followed by catechin, an antioxidant that is around 1/3 of the total polyphenol content and lutein, a carotenoid antioxidant. Health benefits of potatoes include: provide a substantial source of energy from their complex carbohydrates;  help lower blood pressure; reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases; aids in weight management as potatoes help make you feel fuller for longer; reduce inflammation for the digestive system, gout and rheumatism arthritis; neutralize the damaging effects of “free radicals”; help regulate metabolism; promote healthy gums and treat scurvy; support healthy central nervous system; preclude development of kidney stones; diminish signs of aging and aid in the treatment and healing of sprains, bruises, mouth ulcers and burns. The variety of potato, its origin, processing and cooking technique can all influence their nutritional values. Choose healthier cooking methods like steaming, boiling, baking, oven roasted or even stir-frying and healthy oils like olive oil. Exclude heavy and excessive toppings like ghee, butter, sour cream, cheese and salt. Eaten in moderation with a balanced diet, potatoes with all its nutrients, can be beneficial for you.

Cabbage

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea), a leafy vegetable that is grown yearly and it belongs to the genus Brassica and the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It consists of 3 cultivars of leafy green, red or purple, or white (pale green). It is closely related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, all these cruciferous vegetables originated from the wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea). Cabbage was first cultivated in Europe around 1,000 BC in the West and around 4,000 BC in the East in North China. Cabbage is rich in dietary fiber and low in calories. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C and a good source of folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and manganese. Cabbage contains antioxidants namely choline, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin as well as flavonoids like apigenin, quercetin and kaempferol. Red cabbage are richer in these antioxidants and flavonoids than white or green cabbage.

Red or purple cabbage has a special flavonoids called anthocyanins, giving it its colour. The colour of cabbage is based on how much anthocyanin it comprises. The higher the amount of anthocyanin levels, the darker it appears. Red cabbage has less calories, less vitamin K and folate (vitamin B9) but much more vitamin C than white or green cabbage. The anthocyanin in red or purple cabbage improves brain health and lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These plant phytonutrients help defend the body against chronic pain and inflammation and oxidative stress. Health benefits of cabbage consist of: boost the immune system; lower risks of cardiovascular disease; reduce risks of inflammatory diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis and rheumatism; support healthy skin; aid in weight loss; may help protect against radiation; decrease risks of cancers of the colon, lungs and breasts; ease symptoms of intestinal ulcers; improve digestive health; decrease risks of diabetes and reduce risks of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Tomato

Tomato is an edible berry of a tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum) and belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshades family just like potatoes. Both tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were first cultivated in Mexico in the 15th century and the first tomatoes were transported to Europe during this time. Grape tomatoes are assumed to be originated from the Southeast Asian country of Taiwan. Grape tomatoes are oblong fruits just like regular grapes, small in size and sweet tasting. They are similar to the small rounded cherry tomatoes that are shaped like cherries, slightly larger in size, crisp, sweeter and juicier in taste. Cherry tomatoes sizes range from thumb tip to golf ball size. But grape tomatoes are crunchy, meatier with thicker skin and less juicy but they tend to keep well for longer than cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes come in red, yellow, orange and brown colours. While cherry tomatoes come in red, yellow, orange and green varieties.  Since grape tomatoes are tougher and less delicate to package and for hauling, they have increasingly gained more popularity than cherry tomatoes to grow and sell.  However, both grape and cherry tomatoes are frequently used as a substitute for each other especially in recipes like salads, pizza, pasta, stew, cocktails, etc. Due to the larger size of cherry tomatoes, they are often a preferred choice when used for stuffing.

The nutritional values and health benefits for both cherry and grape tomatoes are very similar. However, the components of essential vitamins and minerals can vary between different assortments and seasons. Tomatoes are 95% water, contain dietary fiber and are low in calories and carbohydrates. They are also an excellent sauce of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate (vitamin B9), copper and manganese.  All tomatoes are rich in plant antioxidant compounds like lycopene, beta carotene, chlorogenic acid and flavonoid like naringenin (in tomato skin). Lycopene is a red pigment and carotenoid responsible for the red colour of tomatoes. Research indicates that the processing and cooking of tomatoes can increase their nutritional values, especially their antioxidant activities and lycopene compounds. Health benefits of tomatoes include: lower blood pressure and risks of cardiovascular diseases; decrease ‘bad” cholesterol (LDL); may help prevent cancers like prostate, lungs, breasts and stomach; promote healthy skin and hair; aid in management of diabetes; improve eye health; support healthy bones; decrease risks of kidney stones and support healthy digestive system.

Tofu

Tofu or often referred to as bean curd originated from China for more than 2,000 years ago. A traditional food staple for many Asian cuisines especially Chinese and Japanese cuisines. It is a broadly savoured food made from soya beans, by curdling fresh soya milk and compressing the curds into solid white blocks with differing softness: silken, soft, firm, extra firm and hard. As tofu has a neutral flavour, it can be used in a wide variety of dishes, sweet or savoury. In modern day, many different types of tofu for sale are sold in different seasonings and marinates. As tofu has a neutral taste, it can take on any flavours of a dish well. It is the most widely used soya product in the world that is all natural, naturally gluten free, affordable and nutritious. It is frequently used as a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegan as an important source of protein for them. Tofu is a perfect source of plant protein as it contains all the 9 essential amino acids.

Tofu is not only low in calories and fats but cholesterol free as well. In addition, tofu is an exceptional source of calcium, manganese, copper, selenium, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, tofu is a good source of iron, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B1 (thiamine). Tofu contains phytoestrogens named isoflavones with comparable structure to the female hormone oestrogen and as a result, it imitate the action of oestrogen made by the body. Health benefits of tofu consist of: reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases; help decrease levels of bad cholesterol (LDL); promote strong bones and lower risks of osteoporosis; reduce risks and also aid in the management of diabetes; relief symptoms of menopause; decrease risks of prostate, breasts and colon cancers; promote healthy skin; assist in weight loss management and support healthy brain functions and reduce risks of age-related brain diseases.  

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