Garden Gado Gado

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On numerous visits to the Indonesian archipelago over the years, my taste buds and I have searched for the perfect Gado Gado. This classic Indonesian salad is constructed from various cooked vegetables and salad ingredients, then covered with peanut sauce. My research has led to one conclusion: they are all different.  The term Gado Gado means mix- mix in Bahasa Indonesian and the dish is usually made with a mix of vegetables (such as potatoes, green beans, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage), with tofu, tempeh and hard-boiled eggs, then topped with peanut sauce dressing, and tapioca krupuk on the side. The versions I have tried in Indonesia often include vegetable greens and no egg, some have wetter peanut sauces and some dry and dark sauces, resembling the Javanese pecel sauce. The salad components seem to be vanishing from the modern Indonesian Gado Gado, but were definitely a component throughout the 80s.

Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.
Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.

My garden version is based on current garden pickings. I think many Indonesian cooks use what’s on hand and aren’t too fussed with following a formula. A very successful version can be made with the following summer produce:

  • Cos lettuce, chopped
  • silver beet leaves, green only, steamed
  • new yellow fleshed potatoes, cooked, sliced
  • mini tomatoes, halved
  • cucumber, sliced

To this, I have added,

  • hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • fried strips of tofu
  • peanut sauce

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The Peanut Sauce.

This is a wonderful cheat’s peanut sauce and I am indebted to Celia for this recipe. It is really tasty and cuts out a lot of work.

  • 60g Jimmy’s Saté Sauce
  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 60g coconut milk (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 10g dark sweet soy (Kecap Manis)
  • 15g lime juice (or tamarind if limes are scarce)
  • 10g brown sugar (or any sugar)

Whisk all the ingredients together until combined and then taste and adjust as needed.  I like to cook the sauce down a little to make a thicker sauce as I am not a fan of the ‘drenched’ version of Gado Gado. The sauce has deep notes of three spice powder and is hot and sweet and tastes pretty authentic!

The magic sauce, Jimmys
The magic sauce, Jimmys

I like to build this salad, starting with the lettuce ( Cos or Iceberg) then adding the steamed vegetable greens, followed by cooked potatoes, then green beans if available, then arrange the tomato and cucumber slices or chunks around the sides, interspersed with hard-boiled eggs. Then cover with the sauce, followed by any extra lovely things you may have hanging out in your pantry, such as tapioca krupuk, or fried shallots, or fresh, lightly steamed bean shoots.

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This version is based on my resolution to use what’s on hand, just like the good ibu of Java would do. No more running to the shops for one or two rogue ingredients. But I wish I had some krupuk!

An authentic version of peanut sauce can be found in Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food.   I like the cheat’s version equally well.

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18 thoughts on “Garden Gado Gado”

  1. You’ve reminded me I must buy Jimmy’s Saté Sauce. I make a good peanut sauce but I like the idea of a darker richer version. Your photos look divine, I could also eat off the screen. The G.O. loves satay/peanut sauce and all of your Gado Gado inclusions are on his acceptable food list! Hmmm 🙂

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    1. That’s good. So many people, including me, have to cross out too many things. I like this one because there’s no chopping. Good for summer and no compromise in taste. Thanks go to Celia.

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  2. Great – thank you! I love gado gado. Any tips on preparing the fried tofu or which kind to get? Have a vego daughter who needs more protein…Xxx

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    1. Any tofu is fine. Of course, the harder ones are much easier to fry. Tempe is nice cut in strips and fried too. Just use a plain oil ( peanut/canola etc) with a little in a hot pan, and turn over to golden. Good old gado gado. Makes life worthwhile when all the others are eating chicken sate- the vegetarians get to eat more of the sauce, the best bit.

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