Using Up Your Market Bounty—Gado Gado

Hopefully those Dane County Farmers Market posts have inspired you to seek out your local farmers market or farmstand. If so, you’ve probably returned home with a veritable plethora (oh, how I love that word) of produce—the bounty that is late August and early September. Cucumbers and zucchini crowd your vegetable crispers. Tomatoes of many colors and stripes fill your bowls and counters. Basil and parsley and thyme add their herbaceousness to the scent of your kitchen. You tear up in poetic appreciation for the abundance bestowed upon you by the hard work of your local farmers. You sit back, satisfied.

Okay, maybe not. But you came home with a few tomatoes and cucumber. Perhaps you even grew them yourself. As you eat your fill of this fresh produce, you may be looking for an usual treatment for it. Enter Gado Gado, an Indonesian peanut-coconut sauce served with rice and vegetables.

Wait, you say. Hold on. Indonesian??? How is that Flyover? Well, dear readers, the Flyover parts are your local vegetables. And it may come as a surprise to some, but the Flyover States are home to people of non-European ancestry or origins. To wit, the largest concentration of Hmong Americans are found in Minnesota. Fort Wayne, Indiana, is host to the largest concentration of Burmese immigrants. A vast number of Arab Americans reside in the Greater Detroit area (specifically Dearborn). So, a look at Flyover Food incorporates some global cuisines. And while the Indonesian American population isn’t found in the Midwest and Plains, this dish serves to showcase the gorgeous local produce that IS Flyover in origin. So, here’s a version of Gado Gado for your Flyover Culinary Enjoyment! And it’s vegan, to boot.

This serves 8

What You’ll Need

  • chopping board and knife for vegetables, garlic, and ginger
  • garlic press (optional)
  • 2.5 quart saucepan
  • whisk
  • wooden spoon
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • grater—box or Microplane



  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil (peanut, roasted peanut or canola—not olive)
  • 1 or 2 dried, crushed hot chile peppers (or more if you like it spicy!)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cups coconut milk (lite is okay) or 1 14-oz can
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (can add a little more to make it more peanutty)
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce (regular or wheat free)

How to Make the Gado Gado

  1. Saute onion in 1 or 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. When onions soften and become transparent (don’t let them brown), add garlic and saute for another minute or two.
  3. Add all of the other ingredients EXCEPT for the peanut butter and stir to combine.
  4. Add the peanut butter, whisking so it is fully incorporated in the sauce.
  5. Turn up heat to high and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, turn down heat to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring or whisking often. The sauce becomes thick and can stick to the bottom of the pan, in which case you run the risk of it burning. So pretend this is like a Chicago election—stir early and often.
  7. Remove from heat, let cool for 10 minutes, and serve with some combination of rice, vegetables (e.g. cucumbers, steamed carrots or cabbage or cauliflower, bean sprouts), fried tofu cubes, and (if it doesn’t have to be vegan) slice hard-boiled eggs or cooked shrimp.

I actually prefer to make this a day ahead. I find the flavors blend together better with the benefit of an extra day. This also freezes beautifully—you can divide the sauce in half, serving one and freezing the other. Additionally, this is nice tossed with rice noodles.


Here I’ve used the sauce on a salad with greens, cucumber, and heirloom tomatoes.

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