Karedok, Lotek, Gado Gado, Pecel, and Urap are names of the popular salads you will likely encounter and taste when you travel to Sunda.
Similar to western salads, we are familiar with dishes made of assorted vegetables thrown together. The differences are in the dressing (we mainly use peanut sauce) and the types of vegetables. Some of these salads use raw vegetables, while others use cooked vegetables.
The most well-known is Gado Gado from Betawi (Betawi is the ethnic group in Jakarta). If you dine in Sundanese restaurants, you might taste authentic Sundanese salads, such as Lalapan, Karedok, and Lotek. Pecel from East Java and Urap from Central Java are also popular salads in Sunda. Although they look similar, every salad has a different taste. So, what's make the difference? Below are short descriptions of each of the salads, including what makes them unique and different :)
Lalab or Lalapan is the simplest form of a Sundanese salad. It is a bowl of assorted raw vegetables that you eat with sambal terasi (spicy shrimp chili sauce / paste). The original lalapan always has tespong (fireweed), round green eggplants, and leunca (black nightshade), among other vegetables such as cucumber, lemon basils, tomatoes, lettuce, and a piece of cabbage. The best way to eat Lalapan is to enjoy it with a bowl of sambal terasi (spicy shrimp chili paste).
You can easily order Karedok in any Sundanese restaurant you visit because it is the most well-known Sundanese salad. Karedok comprises assorted fresh raw vegetables mixed with peanut sauce. Usually, Karedok uses cuts of round green eggplants, cucumbers, cabbages, long beans, bean sprouts, and lemon basils. Some restaurants also add leunca (black nightshade) into the mix. Then the cook mixes these vegetables with peanut sauce. The taste of Kencur (a.k.a. Kaempferia galanga, aromatic ginger, cutcherry) creates a unique flavor in Karedok.
Lotek is the cooked version of the Sundanese salad. The secret ingredient that differentiates Lotek from other salads is the mashed potato in its peanut sauce. The potato creates a smooth and a bit creamy texture on the sauce.
There are many Lotek sellers in Bandung, but the best seller since 1953 is Lotek Kalipah Apo. The address is at Kalipah Apo street no 42, Bandung. Its Lotek comprises cooked morning glory, bean sprouts, cabbages, and unripe jack fruits. First, they made the peanut sauce inside a large stone bowl, then they add the cooked veggies and mix them thoroughly.
Another well-known salad in Sunda is Gado Gado, although it originated from Betawi (Jakarta). Gado Gado is a combination of cooked and raw ingredients. The vegetables used are long beans, bean sprouts, cabbages, carrots, and fresh lettuce. Then, we add slices of boiled egg, potatoes, and fried tofu before we pour the peanut sauce. People say that the original Gado Gado Betawi also adds steamed corn kernels to the mix.
What differentiates Gado Gado from other Sundanese salads is the sauce. The cook simmers the peanut sauce in Gado Gado into coconut water, resulting in a savory sauce.
Whenever we talk about Pecel, many people associate it with Madiun, a town in East Java, where Pecel originated.
In essence, Pecel is a veggies mix that comprises steamed morning glory or spinach, cabbages, and bean sprouts. Then, we pour peanut sauce on top of it. Usually, we eat Pecel with Rempeyek Kacang (crackers sprinkled with fried peanuts).
Since Pecel is very popular in Indonesia, you can easily find packaged sauce in supermarkets. You only need to dissolve it with water.
Urap is a home-cooked meal in many areas in Central Java. The veggies used are long beans, bean sprouts, cabbages, and morning glory. After all of these veggies are broiled, the next step is to make the sauce. What makes Urap is very different from other salads is the sauce. Urap does not use peanut sauce. The main ingredient of the sauce is the roasted grated coconut. We made it by frying the grated coconut in a pan without any oil. Of course, we add other spices into this roasted grated coconut. The spices are crushed garlic, shallot, coriander, candlenut, palm sugar, and chilies.
Indonesian love spicy food. Therefore, often you can order different levels of spiciness for these salads unless it is a pre-packaged sauce.
Unlike western salads, we eat them with rice or lontong (rice cakes wrapped with banana leaves).
The must-have topping for these salads is crackers! Usually, we use tapioca crackers on top of Karedok, Gado Gado, Urap, and some Lotek. However, the topping on Lotek Kalipah Apo is shrimp crackers. And the best topping for Pecel is Rempeyek Kacang (crackers sprinkled with fried peanuts).