Recipe: How to Make Indonesian Gado Gado Salad

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Gado gado salad is a delicious hot side dish that is served everywhere in Indonesia. n fact, it’s so popular that you’ll not only find it on every restaurant menu, you’ll see it served from hawkers’ carts and in most warungs (small eateries) as well.

If Indonesia ever decides to name a “national salad,” gado gado will be it.

What distinguishes gado gado from any other plain vegetable salad is its peanut-based dressing. The sauce is poured all over the vegetable salad just before serving. Generously.

Gado gado salad with peanut dressing

How to make gado gado salad

The basic recipe for gado gado is amazingly flexible. This means that you can include only the salad ingredients that you like and have on hand.

Recipes for gado gado vary. Different islands make it different ways, and they even vary from family to family because of personal preferences. Whatever the ingredients, the basic concept is always the same.

Authentic gado gado really has only a few strict rules:

  1. It must include boiled potatoes and hard-cooked eggs, and
  2. Everything must be totally drenched in dressing.
  3. Gado gado is always served hot with a liberal serving of a special sauce poured over the vegetables.

Gado gado vegetables: While the eggs and potatoes are standard, the rest depends on you. You can vary it every time you make it, depending on what you have on hand.

A few of the more common ingredients are:

  • hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
  • potatoes
  • cabbage
  • bean sprouts
  • string beans
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • celery
  • spinach
  • chayote
  • bitter gourd
  • corn

The sky’s the limit!

Just cut up the vegetables into bite-size pieces, and steam or boil until tender.

Green beans, cucumber, bean sprouts and leafy green vegetables to be used in gado gado recipe. Also visible: package of gado gado peanut sauce

How we make gado gado

Let’s be honest: Boiled vegetables can be pretty boring and tasteless. When we make gado-gado, we prefer to steam our vegetables instead boil them. Sure, boiling is traditional, but steamed veggies have more taste.

Besides, we’re into healthy eating. Not only do steamed veggies have far more nutrients, they also have an added crunch that is missing from the boiled version, and we like that. We prefer to use string beans, bean sprouts, potatoes, and sliced bok choy or napa cabbage.

For added character, we like to add an additional garnish of cold, freshly sliced cucumber.

Bambo steamer on a stovetop
Steaming vegetables for gado gado

Dressing up the recipe

Garnishes begin with those required hard-cooked eggs, which are usually presented on top as a garnish. Other popular garnishes are fried onions and sliced tomatoes.

In a true Indonesian meal, rice is always served along with the vegetables and peanut sauce. When we lived on Bali, our friends always insisted we have rice on our plate when we ate. They said it would “cover our stomachs.” In their way of thinking, eating rice ensures you won’t be hungry before the next meal.

How to make gado gado sauce, the salad dressing

The thing that distinguishes this from any other vegetable salad is the peanut-based dressing. It is poured all over the vegetable salad just before serving. Generously.

It was the special peanut sauce – creamy, tangy, sweet, and spicy all at the same time – that made us fall in love with this great salad. When we were in Bali, it was our go-to favorite when we were in the mood for a vegetarian meal.

The most important thing to remember when making this is that the dressing should be thick and rich. This is not a runny, Western-style dressing to simply drizzle over vegetables for decoration and color. Gado gado is a saucy side dish, so the sauce needs to coat everything well.

Traditionally, gado-gado dressing is made to order, so that it can be spicy or not, depending on your individual preference. These days though, it’s so popular that most Indonesian restaurants prepare the peanut dressing in large batches ahead of time and keep it warm until it’s served.

The convenience method: Blocks of the base for gado-gado dressing are available in many Asian stores. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare: Just add hot water and stir. Or, you can order gado gado sauce mix from Amazon.

The home made method: In case you can’t get your hands on gado gado sauce, here is a DIY version. It might take more time to make, but we think this version is not only better for you, it’s much tastier.

Trust us: If you make this sauce, your kids will want to eat their veggies.

Try this and let us know what you think – and if your kids agree with us. If you have any tips of your own, let us know!

gado gado dressing recipe

Package brought from Bali Indonesia

Recipe for gado gado sauce

SERVES: 4
PREP TIME: 10 MIN
COOK TIME: 5 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 15 MIN

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-5 bird’s eye or Thai chilies, seeded (more or less to heat preference)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar BUY IT HERE
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm water to get the juice BUY IT HERE
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) BUY IT HERE
  • 2 cups hot water

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Add mixture to a sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat until warmed through.
  3. Pour liberally over gado-gado veggies.

Substitutions

  • Instead of chilies, you can use red pepper flakes to taste (start with 1/2 tsp.)
  • Palm sugar: substitute coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • Tamarind pulp: substitute equal parts of rice wine vinegar and brown sugar
  • Sweet soy sauce substitute:  mix one part molasses with two parts soy sauce

More uses for gado-gado sauce

This peanut-based sauce is also good on chicken and fish, and is very similar to the sauce they serve with satay. It also makes an excellent condiment on french fries, as we discovered in Amsterdam. The Dutch used to occupy Indonesia and brought a lot of recipes back to their homeland. they became so popular that Indonesian restaurants can now be found all over the Netherlands. That’s why, instead of eating their fries with tomato ketchup or with mayonnaise (that’s how the Dutch like it), many people there like to eat it with satay or gado gado sauce.

Try this and let us know what you think – and if you have any tips of your own, let us know!

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Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. “Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.”

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