I’s been seven months since Niels moved from Amsterdam to Berlin. He quit his job in the European parliament – the one everyone else was so thrilled about – and moved to Berlin to move in with his girlfriend and lead a more balanced life. Back in Brussels he used to work until late in the evening every day, so grocery shopping was virtually impossible. His fridge was filled with frozen vegetable patties, canned food and champagne he got from the EP. When he came to Berlin, it struck him: Finally, he was able to spend time in the kitchen again, do go shopping on farmer’s markets and to prepare meals from scratch.
Berlin has quite a wide array of eateries. You can find excellent Vietnamese food, eat Sudanese falafel with this addictive peanut sauce (don’t get me started), have crispy, thin Italian pizza or Korean BBQ, eat vegan burgers, healthy Quiche, Japanese Ramen soup: the possibilities are endless. Just around the corner of mine there’s a cute little café where they bake their own Brioche and no one even seems to bother. What makes Berlin so special is that eating out is affordable for almost anyone. That falafel I got so excited about? It costs 2,50 Euro. That’s less than two Pounds everybody! And for a fiver you could have the best Vietnamese food you’ve ever had, I promise.
Indonesian food, though? That’s much harder. Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony until 1949. The Dutch soldiers that had fought Nazi Germany were sent to Indonesia right after the victory to suppress the movement for independence in the colonies. The bloody war that followed was downplayed by the government which stubbornly insisted on calling it a ‘police action’. Whole villages were extinguished, torture and other war crimes were common. The Dutch-Indonesian war remains a black page in the history of a state that is otherwise known for its liberal society and its tulip fields. Oddly enough you can buy Indonesian food on every street corner in Amsterdam. It’s like Indian take-out in the UK. People grow up with it.
Niels family used to go to a Chinese-Indonesian restaurant every month or so one of their favourites was the Indonesian ‘rijsttafel’, a variation of side dishes. The portions were so huge that this would serve the whole family of four. When he came to Berlin he had to get cooking himself. And that’s how I got to try his delicious Gado Gado. Here’s his recipe.
Ingredients (serves 5 persons):
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 onions
- 2 cm ginger
- 2 chile peppers
- 500g green beans
- 3 tbsp ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- 3 tbsp sambal
- 300g peanut butter
- 300 ml coconut milk
- 300 ml water
- 5 eggs
- 1 cucumber
- 3 handful of soybean sprouts
- 2 handful of coriander
- 1 handful of fried onions
- salt to taste
- For this recipe you’ll need four hotplates, one small and one big pot for the rice and eggs, a wok for the sajoer beans and a thick pan for the satay sauce.
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on its package.
- Chop the garlic, the onion, the chile peppers and the ginger. Wash the bean sprouts, the coriander and the cucumber. Cut the latter into slices and set both aside.
- Stir-fry the onions and two thirds of the other spices in the wok. Fry them for 3 to 4 minutes on high heat, then add the green beans and continue stirring until the beans start to brown. Then reduce heat, add the broth, the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sambal and let the beans simmer with the lid half on.
- Hard-boil the eggs. This will take approximately 7 minutes if you put them into cold water. Then let them chill.
- Stir-fry the remaining spices and add the peanut butter. Reduce heat and stir the peanut butter until it becomes liquid, then add the coconut milk. Add the water little by little and season the sauce with sambal and soy sauce. Depending on the sweetness of your peanut butter, you might want to add a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce. It is important to stir the satay sauce constantly on low heat to prevent it from boiling. Season the satay sauce and the sajoer beans with salt.
- Serve the dish with rice and egg in the middle and the green beans, the cucumber and the soy beans on the side. Pour the sauce over the rice and sprinkle the dish with fried onions and coriander.