Gado Gado Spice Paste

Most of flavors in the delicious Indonesian salad gado gado come from its bumbu kacang or peanut salad dressing, which perfectly combines sweet, spicy and savory tastes. This spice paste is the basis for that delicious peanut sauce.

Traditionally, this paste is made using a cobek (pestle) and ulekan (mortar) or a flat, rounded stone. The dry ingredients are ground first, then lime or tamarind juice is added to achieve the desired consistency. Then, the paste is mixed with toasted, ground peanuts, palm sugar, and water, and simmered slowly until bubbly and slightly thickened.

This recipe is adapted for the modern kitchen, and is made using a food processor (although you certainly can still use a mortar and pestle if you prefer). If you like spicy food, don’t seed the chilies before adding them to the processor.


  • 3 red chilies, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5 shallots, roughly chopped
  • ¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, outer leaves and stalk end discarded, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roasted shrimp paste (directions below)


  1. For roasted shrimp paste: place 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste in the middle of a square piece of foil and break it into pieces with a spoon. Fold in the edges of the foil to form a small package. Roast in a preheated oven at 400° F for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. The roasted shrimp paste should be highly aromatic and have darkened into a dry powder.
  2. Combine all ingredients in the working bowl of a food processor, and blend into a smooth paste.