I’ve been on the lookout for some time now for a more authentic Indonesian peanut sauce to crown a gado gado salad or sate sticks. I’ve tried many recipes from my various Indonesian cookbooks and most seem to miss the mark. Indonesian sate sauce differs from island to island and each Indonesian home cook may highlight a distinctive spice in their sauce. I’ve tasted some dark, thick sauces in Java and Sumatra which are quite different from their Balinese counterparts. The same goes with the classic gado gado vegetable salad, a dish which depends on an excellent peanut sauce. I’ve eaten some completely green gado gado salads in Ubud, Bali and some made from only kangkung (water-spinach) in Sumatra, as well as the old-fashioned mixed steamed vegetable gado gado that I learnt around 35 years ago in my early visits to Bali, which includes hard-boiled eggs.
The following recipe comes from Janet de Neefe’s Bali, The Food of My Island Home. Janet runs a cooking school in Ubud, which I attended a few years ago, and also has three restaurants and a lovely guesthouse in Ubud. She has lived in Ubud for more than 30 years with her Balinese husband and family. Note that I often substitute brown sugar for palm sugar, a switch that makes very little difference to the outcome of the sauce. Balinese peanuts are always super fresh and freshly roasted: try to find a reliable source of freshly roasted nuts. Good Indonesian Krupuk Udung ( prawn crackers) are quite different from the ubiquitous supermarket variety. They are large and tastier and can be found in many Asian groceries.
Bumbu Kacang– Balinese Peanut Sauce
- slice of shrimp paste/ Belachan/Terasi equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 long thin red chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
- 2 small red chillies, roughly chopped
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded
- 2- 3 tablespoons fried shallots ( optional)
- 1 tablespoon grated palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kecap Manis
- 1/4 medium tomato
- 150 gr peanuts, roasted
- 3 + tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- sea salt
Hold the piece of shrimp paste with tongs or pierce with a skewer and roast over a gas flame on both sides until the smell is strong.
Blitz the shrimp paste, garlic chillies, lime leaves, fried shallots, palm sugar, and kecap manis in a food processor until smooth. Add a splash of water to get the mixture moving. Add the tomato, peanuts, water, lime juice and salt to taste. ( For a sauce with deeper flavour, you can fry the garlic, chilli, untoasted shrimp paste and tomato in 2 tablespoons of neutral oil ( not Olive) until fragrant first)
Prepare your gado gado vegetables or sate. Pour over the peanut sauce and garnish with krupuk udang ( prawn crackers)
A simpler version of Peanut Sauce can be found here, the latter useful for camping.
Photo on header taken at Taman Sari in Pemuteran, Northern Bali, where they make an excellent Bumbu Kacang.