Gado-Gado is Indonesia’s “salade Nicoise” if you will. Humble street food fare that has found its way into home kitchens and restaurants across the globe. And for good reason. This sweet, spicy, savory salad is as seductive as it is exotic.

Gado-Gado loosely translates as mix-mix and there is its allure. There are as many regional versions as there are street food vendors selling Gado-Gado across the Indonesian archipelago. So get creative and mix it up when preparing this salad at home. Use local fresh seasonal produce, farm fresh eggs, and locally made tofu or tempe. Saucing it all up with a scintillating spiced Indonesian peanut sauce delivers a sensational hot weather offering that everyone will love.

Serving a crisp fresh garden greens salad in the tropics with temperatures hovering near the40’s C is no easy feat. Leafy greens just wilt in minutes. However, the ingenious “tropic’s logic” of this salad is steaming or blanching heartier greens and vegetables that are then refrigerated prior to serving. This delivers a crisp refreshing salad sans wilting.

I recently served Gado-Gado along with Balinese Chicken in Banana leaves (see here) with some trepidation for guests from the UK who are chilli adverse and on their first foray in Thailand. The meal went over splendidly!


Gado-Gado serves 6

For the salad: Feel free to substitute local produce available where you live.

  • 2 medium Chinese cabbage, leaves torn in half lengthwise
  • 4 oz young kale leaves, center vein removed
  • 8 oz Chinese long beans
  • 3 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 6 oz bean sprouts

       Steam or blanch each of the above separately.

  • Chinese cabbage leaves, 3 minutes
  • kale leaves, 2 to 4 minutes
  • Chinese long beans, 5 minutes
  • carrots, 3 minutes
  • bean sprouts, 3 minutes

Place the steamed or blanched vegetables on a rack to cool. Using a fan directed towards the vegetables cools them down quickly!

Cut the Chinese long beans into 2 inch lengths when cool.

Then transfer the cooled vegetables to a paper towel lined container, cover, and refrigerate.

Salad Garnishes:

  • 5 hard cooked eggs, quartered
  • 8 oz tofu or tempe (Indonesian fermented soybean cake), thinly sliced and fried
  • leafy fresh salad greens or watercress
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fried shallots
  • prawn crackers (krupuk) optional

Peanut Sauce: (sambal katjang)

This is essentially a sate sauce that can also be served with grilled poultry and meats. Also delicious as a dip for shrimp chips with drinks!

Traditionally puréed fried peanuts are used for the base of this sauce, but using a pure peanut butter with only salt added works perfectly as well.

  • 4 tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2-4 red sky pointing chillies, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon shrimp paste (or 2 teaspoons fish sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 generous tablespoon palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground toasted coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup stock or water
  • sea salt to taste

Place a skillet over a medium flame and add the peanut and sesame oils. When hot add the shallots and garlic and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the chillies and ginger and sauté 1 minute. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste and shrimp paste (or fish sauce). Press against the bottom of the skillet to caramelize, about 1 minute. Then stir in the vinegar and the palm sugar and stir all the ingredients in the skillet together until well combined.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor and add the peanut butter, ground coriander seeds, soy sauce, lime juice, and nutmeg. Pulse until the ingredients are combined into a thick paste, scraping down the sides of the work bowl ass needed. Begin adding small additions of stock or water and pulsing until the mixture is the consistency of very thick sauce. Taste and add salt to taste.

Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set aside if using immediately, or cover and refrigerate for use later.

Assembling the Salad:

Line a platter or individual serving plates with the fresh salad greens or watercress. Place the cabbage leaves loosely over the greens. Top with the kale leaves. Scatter the carrots on top and then the long beans topped with a generous portion of sprouts.

Nestle the fried tofu or tempe and hard cooked egg slices into the salad and drizzle the peanut sauce over all. Scatter the fried shallots over the entire salad and serve. Place a bowl of the remaining peanut sauce on the table along with the shrimp chips for your guests to help themselves.

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