Gado-gado is a healthy salad served with peanut sauce that can be eaten as a side, a starter or a main meal.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Table of contents
Origin of Gado-Gado
Gado-gado is definitely Indonesian in origin. However, exactly where in Indonesia and when, is a topic that has many versions.
There are various theories as to how gado-gado came about; some say it’s an indirect Portuguese heritage, while others insist that it was born in Jakarta. The name itself means all mixed up.
I’m not going to spend time pondering this (for a change!), given the vague information around. However gado-gado may have originated, it’s a much loved dish in Singapore and Malaysia too, like many mainstream Indonesian recipes. It’s something you can find easily in many of our hawker centres and restaurants.
There are a few parts to the recipe:
- the peanut sauce (pretty similar to satay sauce)
- the vegetables (comprising of both cooked and raw vegetables)
- optional protein in the form of tempeh or tofu
- starch in the form of boiled potatoes and sometimes rice cakes called lontong or ketupat
The peanut sauce is pretty easy to do. If we are making it from scratch, something I always do, it’s just a case of toasting and grinding some raw, skinned peanuts or blanched peanuts, before proceeding with the recipe.
Or you could skip this step and use peanut butter, as seems to be the popular cheat step when making satay sauce. Ideally, you should use peanut butter that has only peanuts or as little extra ingredients as possible.
You can make the sauce as mild or as spicy as you like, just change the type or the number of chillies you use.
We also add a small amount of coconut milk to the gado-gado sauce for a touch of creaminess. This can be reduced for a sharper sauce, or omitted if you don’t fancy it.
There is a whole lot of latitude in the actual salad ingredients. You can pretty much please yourself here. What I’ve given in the recipe card below is an example of what you might find when you are having gado-gado in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia.
Besides that, you can also have carrot sticks, radishes, celery, or anything else you fancy!
So you see, the only part of the recipe that you want to stick to is the gado-gado sauce! Doesn’t get better than that, really, does it?
And on that note, shall we get cooking?
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More Hawker Recipes on SMR
Gado-Gado Recipe (Indonesian Salad with Peanut Sauce)
- chopping board
- medium frying pan
- medium saucepan
- small saucepans for boiling and blanching salad ingredients
- ladle and spatula
- bowls as needed for prep work and serving sauce
- plates as needed for prep work
- sieve for the tamarind
- large serving plate
Gado-Gado Sauce Ingredients
- 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp OR 2 Tbsp paste from a jar
- 60 ml hot water if using tamarind pulp
- 200 g skinned raw or blanched peanuts click to buy on Amazon
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil
- 125 ml water
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar OR 1 Tbsp white sugar, not brown
- 4 kaffir lime leaves optional
- 1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- 125 ml coconut milk
- juice of 1 lime or about 4 calamansi limes
Ingredients to be Ground (for the Sauce)
- 1 small onion about 60 g/2 oz pre peeled weight
- 3 red chillies (or less) OR 1-2 Tbsp of any generic chilli paste like sambal oelek
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp dried shrimp (udang kering) or ½ Tbsp shrimp paste (belacan)
Salad Ingredient Examples (choose a selection from here – see post explanation above and Notes below)
- 4 eggs
- 2 medium potatoes or rough equivalent baby potatoes
- 200 g tempeh
- 200 g tofu or use shop bought puff tofu
- 400 g baby spinach leaves or traditionally, about 200g water spinach (kangkung)
- 1 handful green beans or about 4 long beans
- 4 handfuls beansprouts
- ½ cucumber
- 2 handfuls white cabbage Chinese cabbage will work too
- 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes or 4 medium ones
- 4 handful salad leaves
- prawn crackers as much as you fancy
The Tamarind (skip if using shop bought paste)
Place your pulp in the first bowl and pour the hot water over it. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, mashing with a fork halfway through, to loosen the pulp.2 Tbsp tamarind pulp, 60 ml hot water
- At the end of 10 minutes, mash it up well with your fingers. Strain the tamarind mix through a large mesh sieve or strainer, pushing down on the pulp in the strainer. You don't want a fine mesh, as you won't get the essence of the tamarind juice which will be too big to go through. Set aside until needed.
The Peanuts (skip if using peanut butter)
Place the raw or blanched peanuts in a small frying pan over medium heat and toast for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low after 2 minutes, so the peanuts don't brown too quickly and burn. Keep tossing and flipping the peanuts until they are a light brown colour and giving off a sweet and nutty aroma.200 g skinned raw or blanched peanuts
- When done, tip the nuts onto a large, flat plate and leave to cool for for at least 15 minutes while you get the other ingredients going.
- Place the toasted peanuts in a chopper and pulse to a fine state. Set aside for adding to the sauce.
Halve the onion, and roughly chop the chillies.1 small onion, 3 red chillies (or less)
Add the onion, garlic, chillies and dried shrimp to a food chopper and chop to a fine state. You could also use a pestle and mortar for this.1 small onion, 3 red chillies (or less), 1 medium clove garlic
Let's cook the Gado-Gado Sauce
Heat the oil in a mdium saucepan over medium heat.3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Fry the ground ingredients for 2 minutes.
- Tip in the peanuts and tamarind juice. Stir, then pour in the water and give it a stir to mix well. Bring to a simmer.
Add the coconut milk, palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves, sweet soy sauce and salt. Give it a good stir and bring back to a simmer. Lower the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. I like the sauce to be fairly thick, so that it will stick to whatever you dip into it. If you want to drizzle it, just add a little more water to make it slightly runnier.1 Tbsp palm sugar, 1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce, ½ tsp salt, 125 ml coconut milk, 4 kaffir lime leaves
Take it off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Check seasoning, and add a little more salt if you need it. The sauce is meant to be strong in flavour, like any salad dressing, as it's meant to be eaten with unseasoned vegetables. Leave the sauce until you are ready to serve. It can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge, covered. The sauce is served at room temperature, but you can have it hot, if you prefer.juice of 1 lime
Gado-Gado Salad Ingredients Prep Work
Eggs – boil the eggs, cool and peel them. Then halve or quarter them.4 eggs
Potatoes – scrub clean, then cut into bite-sized cubes. Boil them for about 7 minutes until a knife glides through easily. This will depend on the size of your cubes. Drain and set aside.2 medium potatoes
Tempeh and Tofu – cut into bite-sized cubes and fry separately in a frying pan until crisp and lightly browned, about 3 minutes for each. Drain onto kitchen paper lined plates and set aside.200 g tempeh, 200 g tofu
Spinach – you can quickly blanch this in a pot of simmering water, or do like I do and use the microwave oven. Give them about 60 seconds, tossing halfway, so they cook uniformly.400 g baby spinach leaves
Green beans & Beansprouts – I prefer to leave these raw but you can blanch them in a pot of simmering water.1 handful green beans, 4 handfuls beansprouts
Cucumber – cut these into sticks or chop them up roughly into bite-sized pieces like when served with satay.½ cucumber
Cabbage – shred them or cut them into bite-sized pieces. Leave them raw or blanch them, if you like.2 handfuls white cabbage
Tomatoes – halve or quarter, depending on size of the tomatoes you are using. I tend to leave cherry tomatoes whole.2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
Salad Leaves – leave them whole or cut them, it's matter of preference.4 handful salad leaves
I’ve given you an idea of what you can serve gado-gado with. You don’t want to use every single ingredient I’ve given. Half a dozen will be perfect. Potatoes, tempeh, beans and eggs are a must for me. Everything else, I chop and change dpending on my mood.