The Kingdom of Peanut Sauces

By Tris Marlis - Monday, May 06, 2013

If we can give Indonesia another name, besides the already known “land of spices,” it has to be “kingdom of peanut sauces”. From the east to the west archipelago, many of their signature street food are drenched in this sweet and savoury gravy in so many renditions. For example, karedok, lotek, pecel, kupat tahu and ketoprak, which can all be vaguely translated as “Indonesian-style salad with a certain peanut sauce.”


In Bali, the salad is known as  gado-gado  which generally comes with blanched water spinach, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and tempeh. It is the version that most Indonesians and Singaporeans are familiar with. They cook the peanut sauce made of toasted peanuts, shallot, garlic, chilli, coconut sugar and terasi (shrimp paste). All the ingredients are later cooked and grounded until smooth. Another popular street food in Jakarta is  ketoprak , which is similar to the former except the sauce is served raw and it comes with rice noodle, lontong and tofu instead of the usual greens.


In west Java they have  lotek , the twist here is the addition of cooked potatoes when grinding the sauce to create a thicker consistency, while the ingredients are blanched vegetables, just like gado-gado. Another west Java representative is  kupat tahu , the sauce is slightly more watery and sweeter compares to other types of salad. The sauce is served simply with rice cake and tofu with beansprouts and tapioca crackers for crunch.
Kupat Tahu


In east Java, they have a version made strictly with fresh vegetables only, known as karedok. The addition of galangal creates tangier sauce, making it a refreshing salad. Another popular version is pecel which is the spiciest among the bunch. The sauce is also called Sambal Pecel as it is almost like a peanut chilli paste. Instead of lontong, pecel is usually enjoyed with steamed rice.


An addition of herbs and spices can make a huge difference on its name. Besides being served as salad dressing, the peanut sauce is also paired with fried and steam fish cake, such as Batagor and Siomay. Also, we must mention satay, or sate as they spell it. It also comes with slightly coarser and thick peanut sauce.