party on a plate — Indonesian gado gado

I’m not sure when our little bunker became the family party house.

But sometime after the last rager Christmas brunch, my sister-in-law and I put on our scheming hats to scheme up a surprise party for my brother. A week before his 30th birthday, we invited him to “pop by for a coffee.” The door creaked open, we all leapt from behind the curtain with a yell, and the merriment began!

30ste verjaardag

To match the festive birthday balloons and banners, I made gado gado — a rainbow array of brightly coloured veg on a bed of spinach and red rice, drizzled with a fragrant peanut sauce. Party on a plate, right there.

gado gado

Here’s another version, on another night, so you get the idea that it can handle all the various and sundry ingredients you throw at it.

gado gado

gado gado




the bits and bobs

  • Tofu (fried/baked)
  • Tempeh (fried/baked)
  • Eggs (boiled)
  • Carrot (blanched)
  • Broccoli (blanched)
  • Spinach (blanched)
  • Beansprouts (raw or blanched)
  • Red or white cabbage (raw or steamed)
  • Potato (boiled)
  • Cucumber (raw)
  • Beet (raw)
  • Radish and radish greens (raw)
  • Rice
  • Krupuk (Indonesian shrimp crackers)


the peanut sauce 

  • Thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger
  • Several birds-eye chilis, up to you how many
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves,
  • 250g / 1 cup chunky peanut butter (or roasted peanuts you’ve blitzed up yourself)
  • 300ml / 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Thumb-sized knob of palm sugar
  • A healthy squirt of fish sauce (This is not Indonesian, but it’s so tasty. Leave it out for a vegan sauce.)
  • 1 T tamarind pulp soaked in 3T hot water
  • Salt to taste
  • Sweet soy sauce to taste

Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil (or your oil/fat of choice) in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Finely mince the ginger, chilis, and garlic. Bruise the kaffir lime leaves with a pestle, then toss them with the ginger, chilis, and garlic into the saucepan for a minute, or until the garlic threatens to brown. Turn down the heat to medium, then add the peanut butter, coconut milk, shaved palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind water. Season with salt and sweet soy sauce.

Bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring to prevent sticking, then serve immediately either by drizzling it over the entire salad, or passing it around in a gravy boat so your guests can determine themselves how much sauce lovin’ they’re in the mood for.

Keep any leftover peanut sauce refrigerated in a closed container, and use it to sass up almost anything.