What is Gado-Gado?
The word Gado-Gado means a mix of so many things. I was also told that this name derives from the word “Gado,” which means to snack.
So, Gado-Gado can also mean something to snack on. Although it’s a dish, you can have it as a proper meal for lunch or dinner, besides simply being a snack.
It is so simple, yet it is so good that Gado-Gado has become popular worldwide and has seen a variety of recipe tweaks.
It is originally from Jakarta. It is traditionally made with blanched Kangkung (water spinach), Kacang Panjang (yardlong beans), carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, fresh raw lettuce, cucumber, boiled eggs, and potatoes. And it’s topped up with spicy peanut sauce as its dressing and garnished with Kerupuk (prawn crackers).
Often Lontong or Ketupat is added to the salad, so it becomes a meal in its own right.
Gado-Gado was one of the street foods I enjoyed a lot. Maybe because I love vegetables and I love peanuts. So, how it mixes the peanut sauce over a bunch of vegetables is too tempting for me. I can’t recall saying no to Gado-Gado whenever I was offered this Indonesian salad.
The way you enjoy Gado-Gado
In Indonesia, rice is the main staple in a big way. People have everything with rice. They enjoy any dishes with rice. They even have noodles with rice. Like double carbs, if you like.
When you serve Gado-Gado as a salad, the following is the traditional menu option that Indonesians would have. This menu often appears at family gatherings and at special occasions such as weddings and events.
Recommended menu to serve with
- Chicken and sweetcorn soup, or
- Indonesian sweetcorn fritters – perkedel jagung.
- Perkedel kacang Hijau – Indonesian mung bean fritters.
- Ayam Goreng Bumbu (spicy fried chicken), or
- The best Indonesian sweet soy chicken.
- Sate Ayam (chicken satay), or
- Lamb Satay (copycat of Indonesian Sate Kambing).
- Cap cay (cauliflower and dried-beancurd stir-fry).
- Agar-agar milk pudding, or
- Chocolate mousse pudding.
It can be made vegan too
Apart from a little tiny shrimp paste mixed in the peanut sauce, Gado-Gado is a vegan-friendly dish. As every ingredient it uses is plant-based.
So, if you’re a vegetarian/ vegan, you can still enjoy Gado-Gado. All you do is skip the shrimp paste or use the vegan version of this ingredient.
What you need to make
The recipe I’m sharing here is pretty original. It is based on Gado-Gado sold by native Jakartan (Betawi people) and the food gawker in Jakarta. I try to base it on the real street food recipe.
Hence, the ingredients are pretty simple and easy staples for most people.
When it comes to vegetable choice, you can choose any that you like. As a reference, the traditional Gado-Gado uses the following ingredients:
- Kangkung (water spinach), you can replace it with regular spinach.
- White cabbage.
- Bean sprouts.
- Yardlong beans you can substitute them with green beans.
- Tempeh and/or
- Boiled eggs.
- Peanut sauce dressing. It contains fried peanuts, chilies, garlic, tamarind, palm sugar, boiled potato, Terasi (dried shrimp paste), salt, and water.
- Kerupuk (onion or prawn crackers).
Some places (such as restaurants) do Gado-Gado with improvised peanut sauce mixed with peanut butter and coconut milk. The idea is to enhance the sauce’s creaminess and add extra flavor.
But in this recipe, I’m sharing the street food style Gado-Gado. It uses whole peanuts and fewer spices, just like when I buy this yummy salad mix from the native Jakartan.
As for the vegetables, you can change and add some items that you love. I recommend trying radish, sweetcorn kernels, and other varieties of salad leaves such as kos lettuce, romaine, endive, watercress, arugula (wild rocket), baby spinach, etc.
Note that I put boiled potato to make the peanut sauce. That’s what the traditional recipe uses to help make the sauce creamier, smoother, and thicker. But you can exchange this boiled potato with peanut butter if you prefer. I do that sometimes.
How to make Gado-gado
If you use the vegetables as the traditional Gado-Gado mentioned above, you must have them blanched first.
Lightly boil the veggies for a few minutes, drain, and set aside.
Boil the eggs and potatoes. Set aside.
Wash and rinse the lettuce, cut, and set aside.
Lightly fry the tofu until lightly golden.
Next, make the peanut sauce by using a blender or food processor. Place all the sauce ingredients in the blender/ food processor, i.e., peanuts, peanut butter or boiled potato (if using), chilies, garlic, tamarind paste, salt, Terasi (dried-shrimp paste), sugar, lime juice, and water.
Blend/ process it until it all becomes a smooth and creamy sauce. The consistency should be like heavy cream (double cream).
If needed, try to taste the sauce and add the flavor ingredients, such as salt, sugar, and chilies. Your sauce should taste salty, spicy, and sweet, with a hint of tanginess. You can adjust it according to your taste, especially regarding the chilies.
Lastly, you assemble the Gado-Gado by arranging all the vegetables, tofu, and egg on your plate. Then drizzle the sauce and enjoy it with crispy prawn or onion crackers.
Top tips for making Gado-Gado
- Sambal Terasi adds a flavor punch to the peanut sauce. You can make it your own sambal, as I explain in this Sambal Goreng Terasi recipe. If you don’t have this sambal, you can replace it by adding more chilies and Terasi (dried shrimp paste), twice as much as the recipe calls. Or, you can add it as you go along, trying the sauce. And adjust it according to your taste.
- Make sure you don’t boil the vegetables for too long. You don’t want mushy and soggy vegetables. It’s a no-no. The best is when they still have a bit of crunchiness as you bite.
- Please get the Indonesian sweet soy sauce as the flavor and taste suit you better. I tried non-Indonesian soy sauce in the past. Unfortunately, its taste didn’t suit my Indonesian food recipes.
- You can make your tamarind paste. The quickest way is by soaking some dried tamarind blocks in hot boiling water until it softens.
- If you have time, I’d recommend frying the raw peanuts for the sauce. Because the flavor is much better. But ready-made roasted salted peanuts like the one you get from the shop will do the job just fine. The difference is that the latter is drier and not as creamy as the fried peanuts. Therefore, a spoon or two of peanut butter can help.
More Indonesian street food recipes
Thank you for reading this Gado Gado Jakarta recipe. I hope you’re now tempted to try it. And it would be awesome if you shared your thoughts about this recipe in the comment below (leave a reply box).
Thank you and all the best.
- Chopping board
- Kitchen knife
- Cooking pan
For the peanut sauce
- 7 ounces roasted peanuts Or fried peanuts. See the note.
- 4 tablespoons peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons palm sugar Or dark muscovado sugar and dark brown sugar.
- 3 teaspoons tamarind paste see the note.
- ½ teaspoon salt.
- 2 tablespoons Sambal Terasi/ Sambal Oelek see the note.
- 2 fresh bird’s eye red chillies see the note.
- ¼ teaspoon dry shrimp paste or 1 tsp of fish sauce – optional.
- 2 cups water.
- 2 tablespoons lime juice.
- 3 tablespoons kecap manis sweet soy sauce.
The vegetables and more
- 4 ounces spinach fresh or frozen.
- 5 ounces bean sprouts.
- 1 Lettuce.
- ½ small cabbage.
- 100 grams green beans.
- 1 large carrot.
- ½ Cucumber.
- 200 grams extra-firm tofu.
- 4 eggs.
- Prawn crackers.
- Fried onions optional.
- Kecap Manis/ sweet soy sauce.
For the sauce:
- Using pestle and mortar, grind the peanuts with chilli, tamarind paste, sugar, salt, and shrimp paste (if using) until the nuts become as smooth as possible.
- Add in lime juice, and water little by little as you mix it.
- Add more water if the sauce is too thick. But do it little by little as you don’t want the sauce to become runny.
- You can use the blender or food processor if you wish. Just put everything together and give it a blitz until you get a nice thick peanut sauce with a slightly runny consistency. Your sauce should be as thick as heavy cream (double cream).
For the vegetables:
- Have the spinach blanched with hot boiling water for a minute or two, drain and set aside.
- Soak the bean sprouts in hot boiling water for a minute or two, drain and set aside.
- Cut the lettuce in thick slices.
- Slice the cabbage thinly and boil for about 2-3 minutes until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths, and parboil them. Set aside.
- Cut the carrot in julienne sticks and boil them for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Boil the eggs, let them cool and slice. Set aside.
- Cut potatoes in big cubes and boil until thoroughly cooked. Set aside.
- Cube the tofu and shallow-fry until slightly-light golden.
- Slice the cucumber.
- Arrange the vegetables on a plate however you like, then pour the peanut sauce generously over the veggies, and sprinkle some fried onions on the top if you use.
- Enjoy your gado-gado with prawn crackers.
- You can fry raw peanuts instead. When you do, keep stirring as you’re frying the nuts so that they will be evenly cooked.
- If you only have tamarind block in your pantry, you can make tamarind paste. Soak a 1-inch tamarind block in hot boiling water. Let it soften, and sieve it to get its juice.
- You can make your own Sambal Terasi, as I explain in this Sambal Goreng Terasi recipe. If you don’t want to use this, you can put the chilies and Terasi (dried shrimp paste) twice as much as the recipe calls. Or, you can adjust as you try and taste the sauce.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.