What Is Gado-Gado?

A. Leverkuhn

Gado-gado is a well-known dish in the region of Indonesia that consists of a salad with a dressing and some other side ingredients. This food is also called different names in different regions around Indonesia. It generally includes a peanut sauce as dressing, along with green vegetables and eggs.

Fried shallots can add flavor to gado-gado.
Fried shallots can add flavor to gado-gado.

Many different types of green vegetables are used in gado-gado. Some of these include cabbage, sprouts, cucumber, and string beans. Other vegetables like tomato may not be part of traditional recipes, but may be added to some varieties of the dish. Boiled eggs are often included on the side, peeled and cut in half.

Boiled eggs are often cut in half and served on the side with gado-gado.
Boiled eggs are often cut in half and served on the side with gado-gado.

The peanut sauce dressing for gado-gado is usually poured on top of the salad. Some basic ingredients are the peanuts, along with certain types of sugar and hot chilies. Lime juice is sometimes added to the mix. A sort of dry shrimp paste can also be added. Garlic and coconut milk are often added to the sauce.

Another element of the dish is a certain kind of cracker. In the region where this food originated, the kind of cracker that accompanies gado-gado is called emping. These dishes may also be served with rice or rice cakes, which are sometimes called lontong.

Some other types of ingredients also complement the dish. Fried shallots are sometimes added to give it flavor and textural contrast. Some cooks also add vegetarian foods like tofu or tempeh, pressed soy products that can give the dish more protein without adding meat. In other recipes for this dish, fish or other meats may be added.

One of the unique characteristics of this dish is the various ways that cooks make the peanut sauce. In traditional varieties of gado-gado, cooks will often grind the peanuts along with spices, using a simple mortar and pestle. In other varieties, cooks may use peanut butter or processed peanut paste, along with the shrimp paste and other elements. Food experts of the region note that as the popularity of gado-gado grows, today’s food manufacturers have started to sell premade blocks of peanut sauce elements, to allow cooks to make this food more quickly instead of making it from scratch. Some already prepared versions of this dish may also be common in modern cafeterias serving the modern citizens of these regions who don’t have time to make food from scratch.

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