Gado gado (Indonesian salad with spicy peanut sauce)

Gado gado is a traditional Indonesian salad dish whose name literally translates as “mix-mix”, so no prizes for guessing it’s a bit of a free for all when it comes to selecting your ingredients!

In different parts of the vast archipelago you’ll find gado gado done really differently, but it’ll always feature a mixture of raw and blanched vegetables, potatoes, eggs, prawn crackers, and a delightfully tangy spicy peanut sauce.

My own version includes a selection of flavours and textures I think complement each other nicely, but I tend to change it up a bit pretty much every time I make it. As I don’t eat any animal products, there’s no egg in my gado gado, and I like to riff off the crunchy prawn cracker and steamed potato combo with my own alternative: crispy fried cassava chips – these go great with the various textures of veg and gives this ridiculously healthy salad meal a bit of a naughty edge 😉

Gado gado takes a bit of prep, but it’s a great option for a fussy family meal where everyone can just plate themselves up with a selection of whatever they fancy from the platter. Here’s how to prep for your Indonesian health-feast…

Flavour: Fresh, spicy & tangy

Yield: Enough salad to feed a very hungry family of four!

Peanut sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 bird’s eye chillies
  • 2 tablespoons sugar – I use rapadura or palm sugar for their deep, dark flavour
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste/pulp
  • Half a cup of water

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic as finely as you can, and chop up your chillies – add these to a medium-sized bowl
    • Tip: to get your garlic so finely minced it’s almost a paste, the trick is to slice it finely with a really sharp knife, then chop it roughy, sprinkle a little bit of salt over it, and keep chopping until the salt reduces the garlic to a paste-like consistency (shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes all up, and well worth it for infusing garlic throughout your dish and making it super-smooth)
  2. Stir in the sugar, lime juice, tamarind paste and soy sauce – make sure the sugar is dissolved before you move to the next step
  3. Add the peanut butter, and stir until you have a thick paste
  4. Add the water to your sauce gradually, stirring as you go until you have a thick but pourable consistency (you may or may not need it all – depends a lot on how juicy your lime was!)
  5. Set aside in a serving bowl while you prep the rest of your gado gado…

Salad veg:

Ingredients:

  • 1 small cucumber – halved, and sliced into semicircles
  • 4 spring onions – sliced finely, green and white parts separated
  • 1 bunch coriander – chopped coarsely
  • 1 bunch snake beans – snapped into 4cm long pieces
  • wedge of cabbage – shredded (should be enough for 1-2 cups’ worth)
  • 1 cup cauliflower – broken into small florets
  • 2 carrots – peeled, and finely sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup beansprouts

Optional extras:

Any of these will go great in your gado gado 🙂

  • kale (blanched)
  • red cabbage (raw and blanched)
  • Chinese broccoli (blanched)
  • green beans (raw and blanched)
  • broccoli (blanched)
  • potatoes (cut into chunks/cubes, then steamed and/or fried)
  • tofu – cut into chunks/cubes, then fried
  • tempeh – cut into chunks/strips, then fried

Directions:

  1. Prepare all your veg according to the instructions in the ingredients list, and be sure to sit them separately while they wait their turn to be blanched and plated up – don’t mix them up!
  2. Quarter-fill a medium-sized pot of water and bring it to the boil while you get started on plating up your salad
  3. Plate up your raw veg first: cucumber slices, spring onions, coriander, half your snake beans, and half your shredded cabbage
    • Amateur tip: you can either use 1 large platter for everything, with your raw veg at one end and your cooked veg at the other, or use 2 platters, one for your raw veg and the other for your cooked veg
  4. Blanch the rest of your veg in batches according to type (e.g. first your cabbage, then your beans, and so on…), giving each batch between 1-4 minutes depending on how long it takes to brighten in colour and soften up (your beansprouts will only need a minute, but your carrots and cauliflower will need 4)
    • Amateur tip: strain each batch of veg with a slotted spoon, and set aside to evaporate off the excess water before plating up
  5. Plate up your steamed veg alongside your raw veg, and set aside (it’s fine – great even – if it goes cold before you eat, as this is a salad dish)

Cassava chips:

nb: If you can’t get hold of cassava or taro, you can skip this out… but I recommend you add potato and tofu/tempeh to your salad to vary up the textures and flavours 😉

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cassava root or 2 medium sized roots (you could substitute with taro, which also comes out nice and crisp n starchy 🙂 )
  • 2 tablespoons unflavoured oil – I use sunflower, as it’s high in vitamin E and has a high smoke point
  • generous sprinkle of salt
  • generous sprinkle of white pepper

Directions:

  1. Peel your cassava root, and wash it well
  2. Cut the cassava into thin slices – depending on the size of the root you’re using, you might want to cut it into thin rounds, or cut the root first lenthways, and then into thin semicircles
  3. Heat up your oil in a large a frying pan or wok, and then add your cassava chips in batches to cook (don’t put too many in at once, as you want them to cook through evenly – you might need to do this in 2-3 batches)
  4. You’ll need to turn the chips once to cook to a golden colour on both sides, and then shake the pan every so often to move them around to colour up some more – it’ll take between 5-10 minutes depending on how thin you’ve managed to get your chips, and how brave you are with handling your heat 😉
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper onto your chips before their final toss, and then fling the lot into a serving bowl alongside your salad veg and peanut sauce – you’ll want to serve up as soon as your chips are done so they stay nice and crispy (you won’t need to drain your chips on kitchen paper, as you only used a wee bit of oil – cassava is great, as it crisps up nicely with only minimal oil 😀 )

To serve:

Now you’re ready to serve your gado gado… Set up a spread at your table with the selection of blanched and raw veg, cassava chips, and peanut sauce, and then tell everyone to get stuck in (at my house, this serving-up step is a free-for-all with fingers – forks are just for eating the salad!)! Plate up a selection of whatever bits n pieces you fancy, slap on a generous drizzle of peanut sauce, and eat until you can handle no more! 😀

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