Gado-gado Soep: a Transition from Salad to Soup

How to turn salad into soup? It’s either the easiest question to answer or the most stupid question ever asked. If you are being naïve by saying, “Just pour water on it!”, that’s what I’m talking about.

Today’s “victim” is gado-gado.

Gado-gado is an Indonesian (specifically Javanese) salad dish with peanut dressing. The word gado-gado itself literally means “mix-mix”. However, gado (without the repetition) has a different meaning, which is “to consume without rice”. In line with its meaning, there are various boiled vegetables in it, such as spinach, cabbage, chayote, boiled egg, long beans, bean sprouts, fried bean curd and fried tempe (fermented soybean). Alternatively, it may be added with potato, sometimes cucumber (no need to be boiled though). Or replace spinach with watercress, long beans with string beans etc. Unlike any western salads, this traditional salad can be accompanied with rice or lontong (compressed rice in banana leaf).

Basically, gado-gado is available nationwide in many Indonesian restaurants.

Nonetheless, I’m amazed that the Dutch create the soup rendition called gado-gado soep, or gado-gado soup. In addition to its peculiarity, this menu is not available in any Indonesian restaurants in The Netherlands (trust me, there are hundreds of Indonesian restaurants in the country if you notice), and definitely does not exist anywhere in Indonesia.

The first time I noticed gado-gado soep was at a cafeteria on campus in The Netherlands, provided by an appointed catering company. The soup was often in turns with minestrone, french onion soup and chicken soup. For a long time, I’d rather take the other 3 varieties than gado-gado soep. I’m not only into vegetables in peanut sauce, but also the idea of turning it into soup doesn’t sound appetizing.

i beg you not to turn me into soup :o photo by madya
I beg you not to turn me into soup 😮   -photo by Madya

I asked my fellow Indonesians’ (in The Netherlands) opinion about it. I witnessed 1001 kinds of mimic expressing disapproval, uninterested, even disgusted and puzzled feeling about what’s the point of making that kind of dish, when keeping it original is the best thing to do.

One day, I fulfilled my curiosity by tasting some zips of the soep from the cafeteria. Here’s what I can say. It’s savoury like a cubed broth with hints of peanut flavour from the paste. Since it only costs €0.80, so there’s nothing much to expect from the contents. You really need to dig it deep with the ladle to get all of them. Bean sprouts, spring onions, carrots and a few slices of cabbage. Fortunately, the taste of the peanut soup is not too heavy. Otherwise it will be too hard, as in sickening, to swallow.

Well, I conclude that it is my first and last to eat it.

gado-gado soep.  photo credit:

But don’t get it wrong. A multinational brand like Knorr creates a kant en klaar (instant) version of gado-gado soep. Several Dutch websites provide online recipes of this salad soup. Albert Heijn, one of the leading supermarket chains in the country, once distributed free gado-gado soup recipe in the brochure.

To be honest, I have never tried one at home.

These recipes suggest ingredients originally never used in gado-gado, such as leeks, broccoli and cauliflower. I think it’s just too westernized. And that’s not it. The additional chicken broth, chicken filet, noodles and coconut milk makes this food more weirdo than ever. As a result, gado-gado soep is no longer a vegetarian dish and it seems to me that they are trying to make a peanut-flavoured curry chicken noodle soup.

I’m completely “loss” without you.

A friend of mine said, perhaps gado-gado soep is inspired by Surinamese pindasoep (peanut soup), which is described as “strong peanut butter broth”. Though I don’t know which one comes first, there are ingredient similarities between the two dishes, including the use of noodles. Nonetheless, pindasoep doesn’t emphasize on vegetable varieties and it can be mixed with pineapple, minced meat or toast bread, something that I find very bizarre.

I’m not able to make a taste comparison between gado-gado soep and pindasoep since I haven’t tried pindasoep, and I don’t think I’m gonna do it anytime soon.

surinamese pindasoep. photo credit:

As the old saying, if there is demand, there will be supply. No matter what I think about the “confusing” gado-gado soep, it doesn’t mean you have to second my opinion. It’s not a crime to expand you culinary experience by tasting this particular dish.

May be, a box of instant gado-gado soep could be your (uncommon) souvenir to carry back home. Go get it in supermarkets or Asian stores in The Netherlands. Remember, you won’t find it in Indonesia in a million years.

Then, tell me what you think about it.

4 thoughts on “Gado-gado Soep: a Transition from Salad to Soup

  1. Soup?! Aduh. I love gado-gado the way it is, prepared and served the traditional way. I’m almost certain that the soup version isn’t available anywhere here on Bali. But even if it were, I’m too much of a gado-gado purist 😉


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