gado gado – an Indonesian salad

Apa kabar! My first two years of high school were spent learning how to speak Indonesian. Well not just Indonesian, there were other subjects I had to learn too. I did think Indonesian a little obscure of a language to make mandatory study but with the proximity to Australia I imagine someone from the school district board deemed it a marvelous idea. I was more interested in boys than learning how to ask for directions if ever I was wandering around lost in Indonesia. My teacher, Mr Jagleman (who also taught my French class, the poor soul), tried to make the class interesting. I wish I’d appreciated this more. He’d bring Indonesian food for his students to try. One day we even cooked it in class. I wasn’t interested in learning the language but the food hooked my attention. Even at age 12 I knew the intricacies of the wonderful cuisine one of Australia’s closest neighbors. This was thanks to regular visits to an Indonesian restaurant in what was considered one of Sydney’s scuzzier suburbs back then, Newtown. My family and I were locals at this restaurant and I loved everything on the menu, including this dish – Gado Gado – an epic Indonesian salad.

gado gado - an indonesian saladThis recipe is a little hefty on the ingredients but fear not fellow gourmonds, your efforts will be well rewarded with a powerhouse of flavors, textures and colors. We eat with our eyes first and as trite as that might sound, it’s true. This salad is very pretty but it’s also comforting and wholesome. If you’ve got the ingredients prepped ahead of time, it will be a snap to throw together, arranging it into bowls or as I did, old pie tins. I think it’d look lovely served in old wooden bowls too.

making the peanut dressing

Firstly you’re going to to want to make the dressing. Process up the ingredients until they resemble wet sand, just like in this pic. Some recipes call for shrimp paste which is more authentic in gado gado but I used fish sauce because I seem to have overstocked on it. You want to whisk the dressing with the coconut milk until it is smooth. This would be nice over grilled chicken or steak too. Or anything really. It’s very delicious.


I sliced up some tofu that was already fried (I bought it that way) and lightly warmed the slices because cold tofu – yuk, no thanks. Tofu can be found in the fridge section of your local Asian market, grocery store or healthfood store. To me it’s almost flavorless so feel free to leave it out but it’s there in lieu of meat. It works in this salad because it’s like a food sponge that soaks up the flavors of the dressing.

blanching cabbage

The veggies are dunked into boiling water and then refreshed in cold water, retaining their color and nutrients. Gado Gado means “potpurri” or “mix-mix” and this salad is quite the mix of ingredients, some of which you might never tried together – like egg and peanut dressing. I slathered some dressing into the bowls first, then added all the ingredients. Then more dressing. This salad is all about the dressing. And lastly shrimp chips (or ‘prawn crackers’ as we call them back in Australia), for some crunch and texture. On a side note, these are also excellent to snack on with an adult beverage or two. Toss the salad with your fork and spoon to get everything coated and dig in.

gado gado


This post is dedicated to my old language teacher, Mr Jagleman, I hope me remembering some words from those classes so many moons ago is testament to the teaching…either that or my fabulous memory. Oh and apologies for being such a brat.

Selamat makan! Or as it’s more commonly known – bon appétit! See, I know French too lol!

gado gado – an Indonesian salad


  • 1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 small red chilies, trimmed
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • pinch of salt


  • 1 lb (500g) new potatoes
  • salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 12 oz (340g) fried tofu, sliced
  • 8 oz (250g) green beans, trimmed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into strips using a veggie peeler
  • 1/2 medium Napa (Chinese) cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 oz (170g) baby spinach leaves
  • 2 small cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 cup bean shoots, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup roasted chopped peanuts
  • 2 thinly sliced small red chilies, for garnish
  • lime wedges, to serve
  • cilantro sprigs, to serve
  • cooked shrimp chips
  1. To make the dressing, place peanuts, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic and chilies in processor bowl; process until mixture looks like fine, wet sand.
  2. Scrape into large frying pan. Add coconut milk and water; heat and stir until well combined and smooth. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste; set aside. If you’re not using it straight away, place in sealed container in the fridge. To reheat, place in microwave-safe dish and heat for 1 or 2 minutes until runny.
  3. To make the salad, cook potatoes in salted water in medium saucepan on medium-high for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Cut into thick slices; set aside.
  4. Place eggs in a small saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes; drain. Refresh under cold water. Peel eggs and cut them in half. Place on a plate, cover and set aside in the fridge.
  5. Heat a large frying pan on medium. Add oil and cook tofu slices for 1 to 2 minutes each side until lightly browned; keep warm.
  6. Bring a wok or large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch beans for 2 minutes; remove to a bowl of cold water. Blanch carrots, cabbage and spinach for 20 to 30 seconds; refresh in a bowl of cold water. Drain bean, carrots, cabbage and spinach thoroughly.
  7. Place half of the dressing into 4 individual bowls. Divide potato slices, egg halves, tofu, beans, carrots, cabbage and spinach between bowls. Drizzle with more dressing. Top with cucumber, bean shoots, peanuts and chilies. Add lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serve with shrimp crackers. Serves 4.



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  1. Yum! Thanks for remembering Ken Jagelman too. I had him for French for many years and he was amazing. I doubt that he could do the things he did with us now in todays teaching environment, to learn culture and language. I remember he took us to a very risque french play in Kings Cross and then out for dinner in Darlinghurst to a little french restaurant to practice! It was a wonderful evening and one I’ll never forget! Dx

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