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Gado-gado Jakarta is a perfect example of unity in diversity. It has different vegetables and food items put-together with a spicy-delicious peanut sauce that makes the whole thing extraordinary. Because every element complements each other and creates a uniquely tasty salad.
It is so simple, yet it is so good that now gado-gado has become popular in many parts of the world, and seen varieties of recipe tweaks.
What is gado-gado?
The word gado-gado means a mix of so many things. And 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. Although in reality, it’s a dish that you can have as a proper meal for lunch or dinner, besides simply-being a snack.
It is originally from Jakarta. Traditionally, it is made with blanched Kangkung (water spinach), kacang Panjang (yardlong beans), carrots, cabbage and 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 that I used to enjoy a lot. Maybe because I love vegetables and I love peanuts. So the way gado-gado mix the peanut sauce over a bunch of vegetables is too tempting for me. I can’t recall if I ever said 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. And this menu often not only does appear in family gatherings but also on 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 that you mix in the peanut sauce, gado-gado is pretty much a vegan-friendly dish. As every ingredient it uses is plant-based stuff.
So if you’re a vegetarian/ vegan, you can still enjoy gado-gado. All you do is just 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. And it is based on Gado-gado sold by native Jakartan (Betawi people) and the food gawker in Jakarta. I try to based 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 with regular spinach.
- White cabbage.
- Bean sprouts.
- Yardlong beans, you can substitute it with green beans.
- Tempeh, and/or
- Boiled eggs.
- Peanut sauce dressing. That is made of fried peanuts, chillies, garlic, tamarind, palm sugar, boiled potato, Terasi (dried shrimp paste), salt and water.
- Kerupuk, (onion or prawn crackers).
Although there are places (such as restaurants) that do gado-gado with improvised peanut sauce mixed with peanut butter and coconut milk. The idea is to enhance the creaminess of the sauce and add extra flavour.
But in this recipe, I’m sharing the street food style Gado-gado. It uses whole peanuts and fewer spices, just like what I get 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 like the traditional gado-gado mentioned above, you will have to 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), chillies, garlic, tamarind paste, salt, Terasi (dried-shrimp paste), sugar, lime juice and water.
Blend/ process it until all become a smooth and creamy sauce. The consistency should be like heavy cream (double cream).
Try and taste the sauce and add the flavour ingredients if needed, such as salt, sugar, and chillies. Your sauce should taste salty, spicy, sweet, with a slight hint of tanginess. You can adjust it according to your taste. Especially when it comes to the chillies.
Lastly, you assemble the gado-gado by arranging all the vegetables, tofu and egg in your plate. Then drizzle the sauce over and enjoy it with crispy prawn crackers or onion crackers.
Top tips for making Gado-gado
- Sambal Terasi adds a flavour punch in 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 chillies 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. Best is when they still have a bit of crunchiness as you bite.
- Please get the Indonesian sweet soy sauce as the flavour and taste suits 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 block in hot boiling water until it gets softened.
- If you have time, I’d recommend you fry the raw peanuts for the sauce. Because the flavour is so 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 on the drier side and not as creamy as the fried-peanuts. Therefore a spoon or two of peanut butter can help.
Thank you for reading this Gado Gado Jakarta recipe. I hope you’re now tempted to try it. And it will be awesome if you share what you think about the recipe, in the comment below (leave a reply box).
Before you go, don’t forget to check my other street food recipes/ Jajan Pasar that you may love.
- Ketoprak Jakarta – vermicelli, beansprout, tofu and lontong salad from Jakarta.
- Martabak Manis – Indonesian sweet thick pancakes.
- Bubur Kacang Hijau – mung bean porridge.
- Nasi Uduk Jakarta – rice cooked in fragrant coconut milk.
- Lontong Sayur – Indonesian vegetable curry in coconut milk with hard-boiled rice.
- Asinan Jakarta: Indonesian crispy salad with peanut and tamarind sauce.
- Mie Goreng – Indonesian stir-fried noodles.
- Tongseng – braised lamb in spicy coconut milk with sweet soy sauce.
Thank you and all the best.