Gado-Gado (Indonesian Veggies with Peanut Sauce)

Gado Gado is one of the five national dishes of Indonesia. It is a salad made out of blanched or steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes and fried tempeh or tofu. But its most characteristic feature is - of course - the peanut sauce on top.

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It's the penaut sauce that makes the gado-gado so special.

What is Gado-Gado?

Gado-Gado is one of my all time favorite dishes. Probably because eating Gado-Gado is the perfect combination of loading up on healthy vegetables and getting your daily fix of guilty pleasure from the peanut sauce that comes with the dish.

The name Gado-Gado means mix-mix. With its wide variation of vegetables and other nutritious ingredients, it is not hard to see why.

When traveling Indonesia, a big plate of Gado-Gado is your vegan go-to option out on the streets. As long as you remember to ask the Warung-chef to skip the boiled egg on the side. No need for extra animal protein in this dish anyway: you’ll get plenty of plant-based protein out of the serving of the fried tempeh or tofu. And of course from all the peanuts in the sauce.

About the Gado-Gado peanut sauce

The Indonesians consider Gado-Gado a salad and the peanut sauce a dressing. More specifically, a dressing not to confuse with the Indonesian satay sauce which is also peanut based, but prepared with some type of soy sauce. The peanut sauce on top of Gado-Gado explicitly is not.

But calling it a dressing, might not grant the peanut sauce in Gado-Gado the honor it deserves. The peanut sauce makes or breaks the dish. Traveling Indonesia, sometimes I got served a sad little excuse of a peanut sauce that left me completely disappointed with a plate of bland, steamed vegetables, while I also ate peanut sauces that made my taste papillae cry a little bit. 

A dish of national pride since 2018

In 2018 Indonesia started promoting Gado-Gado as one out of five national dishes. However, there are more vegetable-and-peanut-sauce-dishes in Indonesia that look a lot like Gado-Gado. Such as Pecel (Java) and Karedok (West Java). The Indonesians must be extra proud of their originally Sundanese Gado-Gado. Or maybe it was its widely spread international fame that motivated the choice.

The traditional way of preparing Gado-Gado

Traditionally the peanut sauce in Gado-Gado is made using a cobek and a ulekan, a specific type of mortar and pestle. Indonesian cooks ground the dry ingredients first and then add tamarind juice until they find the consistency of the peanut dressing to be perfect.

The common primary ingredients of the peanut sauce are peanuts, palm sugar, chilies, tamarind juice and water. Sometimes shrimp paste is added for extra taste, but it can easily be left out of the mix.

The combination of veggies in the salad for sure varies, but usually has some type of green beans, potatoes, cabbage and bean sprouts. Variations with bitter melon occur, but are not for everyone. Cucumber and tomatoes stay uncooked.

How to serve Gado-Gado like you’re kitchen is an Indonesian warung

A plate of Gado-Gado with fried tofu, boiled potatoes, blanched taugé, Chinese cabbage and Chinese longbeans and raw tomato and cucumber.

Serve your Gado-Gado with fried tempeh or tofu. To make it complete add some tapioca crackers or emping. Or if you can’t find that, substitute with Cassava krupuk, or any type of krupuk-like crispies you can find at your local supermarket. 

If you want to go full-out, you make lontong rice cakes. On What to Cook Today (tried and true Asian recipes and tutorials) you find the traditional way of preparing lontong rice cakes, as well as the quick and easy way using a rice cooker or instant pot.

But if you are a lazy chef (like I am most of the days), a nice portion of steamed white (or brown, for the fibre-loving readers) will complement your Gado-Gado just fine. 

Ingredients

For 3 servings

The ingredients for preparing a traditional version of Gado-Gado.

Ingredients for the salad

  • 2 handfuls of beans sprouts
  • 2 potatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 6 long beans, in pieces of 3 centimeters
  • ½ Chinese cabbage, sliced in wisps of 1 centimeter 
  • 2 tomatoes, in wedges
  • ½ cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • 250 grams of tofu, cut in pieces of 1x1x2 centimeter

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 5 red chilies, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind juice
  • 500 milliliter of coconut milk
  • 350 grams of peanut butter
  • 25 centiliter of sunflower oil
  • A few tablespoons of rice flour (if needed, to bind the sauce)

Garnish

Fry some shallots to garnish your Gado-Gado and put some type of crackers on top to make the dish complete.
  • Fried shallots, pre-packed or fresh shallots to fry yourself (or substitute with pre-packed fried regular onions)
  • Tapioca crackers or emping (or substitute with cassava krupuk or any crispy alternative you can find in your local supermarket)

Kitchen utensils

  • Cooking pan
  • Saucepan
  • Frying pan

How to make Gado-Gado

Prep: 5 min. | Cook: 35 min. | Total: 40 min.

Step-by-step: the salad

  1. Peel and roughly chop the potatoes and boil them in a cooking pan. Depending on the type of potatoes you use, it will take 8-10 minutes. 
  1. Meanwhile chop the cabbage (wisps), long beans (3 cm), tomatoes (wedges) and cucumber (half moons) the tofu and chop the garlic and chilies. Keep all chopped ingredients separated. 
  1. The potatoes are done, when you can stick a fork in them with very little effort. Take the potatoes out of the water and set aside.

  2. Blanch the 2 handfuls of bean sprouts, the long beans and the Chinese cabbage wisps for 90 seconds. This means: putting them for 90 seconds in boiling water. Put aside.

  3. Heat 20 centiliter of sunflower oil in a frying pan and add the sliced shallots. Fry until golden.

  4. Use the same oil and toss the tofu in. Fry until golden.

Pro-tip: the taste of plain tofu is quite bland, even when fried. Mix a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce with the frying oil to spice it up (and deepen the color). Nothing traditional about using soy sauce to fry tofu we suppose, but hey, that’s how we like it best 🙂

Step-by-step: the peanut sauce

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil into a saucepan and wait for a minute for it to get hot.
  1. Toss in the chopped up cloves of garlic and the chopped up chilies. Stir until the garlic is gold.
  1. Add the 500 ml of coconut milk and stir for a few seconds.
  1. While stirring, add 2 tablespoons of tamarind juice.
  1. Add the 350 grams of peanut butter and let it dissolve by stirring

  2. Simmer for about 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, add some rice flour to thicken.

Serve all together with the sliced cucumber and the wedged tomatoes and some rice or lontong rice cakes.

Gado-Gado: blanched veggies with peanut sauce.

Summary

Recipe: Gado-Gado
Country: Indonesia
Prep: 5 min.
Cook: 35 min.
Total: 40 min.
Ingredients: bean sprouts, long beans, Chinese cabbage, potato, tofu, cucumber, tomato, peanut butter, coconut milk, tamarind juice, rice flour
Type of meal: lunch, dinner

Share your Gado-Gado wisdom!

Did you make Gado-Gado? Do you maybe have your own variation of the peanut sauce? Share your Gado-Gado wisdom! Pretty please …

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