Gado-gado (GAH-doh GAH-doh; Javanese steamed salad) is an Indonesian (and especially Javanese) staple. It consists of raw and steamed/boiled vegetables, sometimes something fried like tempeh or tofu, and a thick peanut sauce topping. Here’s a recent picture of some restaurant gado-gado. True gado-gado is vegetarian, although you could certainly add some sort of meat if you wanted to. Indonesians often eat gado-gado with plain white rice, although this sometimes does not happen. In fact, the verb “ngado-gado” means “to eat vegetables but no rice or meat.”

This recipe will make enough gado-gado for dinner for two.

1 chayote squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch rounds
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 small cucumber, quartered and cut into 3/4 inch slices
1/4 head green cabbage (optional)
1 small baking potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (optional)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (optional)
8 baby corns (optional)
1 cup packed spinach leaves (optional)
1 cup packed baby bok choi (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled (optional)

Peanut Sauce
1 shallot, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 inch round of ginger or galangal, peeled
hot chili peppers to taste
1 Tbsp. kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 tsp. kecap asin (regular soy sauce)
4 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter (“natural” style is best)
oil for frying

For the vegetables: bring a small pot of salted water to a rolling boil; add everything except cucumber, sprouts, cabbage (if using), greens (if using), and eggs (if using). Cook for 5 minutes, or until just beginning to soften. Remove and drain. If using bok choi and/or spinach, blanch briefly in boiling water, then shock in an ice bath.

For the sauce: combine shallots, garlic, ginger/galangal, and hot peppers and blend or mash to a smooth paste using a blender. Fry this paste for 1-2 minutes over med-high heat, or until fragrant and just becoming golden. Lower heat to low, and add soy sauces and peanut butter. Stir to incorporate, adding water to thin the mixture to the desired consistency (Indonesians leave it thick). Be extra vigilant to ensure that the sauce does not separate. If it does, you will have to start over, or just eat it lumpy.

To serve: Arrange raw and cooked vegetables and egg on a plate and spoon peanut sauce over the top. Add deep-fried tempeh or tofu if you like, and serve with rice or noodles if desired.

NB: Kecap manis is available at most Asian grocery stores, and can be found with the other soy sauces or with Indonesian/Malaysian/Filipino foods. If you cannot find kecap manis, you can use more regular soy sauce and add carmelized sugar to taste.

NB(2): Chayote is a tropical winter squash that you can often find at regular grocery stores, especially if you live in a place with a large Hispanic population. You can also find them at any good Hispanic grocer. They are light green and pear-shaped, but just a little larger than pears.

NB(3): You will notice that there are more optional ingredients than non-optional ones. As far as we can tell, chayote, carrots, sprouts, and cucumber are the only required ingredients. Feel free to experiment with others to your liking.