Spiced to Health: Balinese Yellow Sauce

It’s mid October, and almost a month since Dane and I returned from our honeymoon in Bali. When I say to myself it’s only been a month, it doesn’t seem that long ago. But when I remember those wonderful sunny days, lounging by the poolside watching Dane surf the ocean waves, it seems like ages ago. How I miss my daily papaya smoothies, the Balinese people, and the time to R.E..L...A....X! Now I just have to remain thankful to have had those wonderful beautiful days with my best friend at my side!

Three days after Dane and I arrived back from our travels, I changed gears from newly wed, sun-kissed Selva to full time Bastyr Dietetic Intern.  Although I love every minute of my intern days, I also miss my peaceful, idyllic, active summer days. With the rain pouring, and no end in sight, the days are now grey, cold, and damp, perfect actually for all the intern activities and competencies that I need to fulfill.

However, every once in awhile, when I light my traditional morning incense (just like the Balinese), I crave the sunshine, the fruit, and the flavorful food that we ate there during our time. Finally, starved of my delicious Balian memories, I decided to make Base Gede, the Balinese yellow sauce that is the start to almost every dish. Without Base Gede, you cannot make traditional Balinese dishes such as Gado Gado, or Nasi Campur.

Not only is this sauce amazingly delicious, and very important in the Balinese cuisine, it is a medicinal superhouse. Stocked full with multiple types of fresh ginger, turmeric, garlic, peppers, and lemongrass, it is bursting with powerful antioxidants that have been touted with many healing properties. I don’t want to beat the bush by talking about turmeric and ginger again, as I just mentioned them in my last post called Balian Papaya Elixir Smoothie, but I will mention a few things about garlic, since the recipe calls for 15 cloves!

Garlic originates from Middle Asia, but has become a culinary and medicinal staple in many cultures around the world. From Europe to Asia, and Africa to the Americas, garlic is used in many traditional foods. The bioactive sulfur compound Alliin and the enzyme Alliinase are most studied when it comes to the healing properties of garlic.  When cut or smashed alliinase becomes activated, changing alliin to Allicin, the active component of garlic. 

Allicin has been touted with strong antibiotic and antiviral properties, making it a popular cold and flu remedy in many cultures.  Although most research studies have used garlic extracts, or powder, rather than fresh whole garlic, it has been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial effects. In a 2009 meta-analysis, a study of multiple studies, found that garlic significantly reduced total cholesterol and triglycerides, however it did not significantly change the LDL to HDL ratio (1). Furthermore, in laboratory studies, garlic has been shown to slow or inhibit the growth of various cancer cells (2).

However, to get the most benefits, after you chop, smash, or press your garlic, let it rest for a minute to allow the enzyme alliinase to change alliin to active allicin. Immediate cooking of the garlic or mixing it with acid, such as lemon juice, deactivates the enzyme. Therefore, in order to increase the health promoting effects of garlic, wait a minute to cook with it, but not too long, as allicin only stays intact for about 2-16 hours at room temperature (3). Fresh pressed, smashed, or minced garlic is best! Now there is more reason to be liberal with fresh garlic, especially if you are staying in for dinner!

Like I said before, this yellow sauce is only the base for Balinese cooking. In order to create the popular Gado Gado or Nasi Campur, you will need a few more ingredients. Although it may seem that at this moment I am leaving you hanging with only a sauce, please be creative! Add it into your own sautés, soups, or marinades! A little goes a long way. And when I post another Balinese recipe that requires this sauce, you will be ready to jump straight on board!

P.S. You can find all the ingredients at your local Asian grocery store. In the Seattle area, I like to go to Uwajimaya.

Stay Happy and Healthy!

Base Gede (Balinese Yellow Sauce) 
Adapted from Paon Bali Cooking Class
Makes 1 ½ cups

3 shallots
15 cloves garlic (about 1 whole bulb)
3-4 inch long galangal root
3-4 inch ginger root
2 thumb size pieces of turmeric
4 whole macadamia nuts (or 8 halves)
2 red hot Thai chilies (small)
3 red chilies (medium)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
2 teaspoons shrimp paste
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white peppercorns (or use more black)
2 whole cloves
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 stalk of lemongrass, pounded and tied in a knot
2 bay leaves


Rinse all ingredients except the seeds and powders. Coarsely chop the shallots, garlic, galangal root, ginger, turmeric, and macadamia nuts. Place into a food processor. Slice and remove the seeds from the chilies and mince. Add to the food processor. Add the nutmeg powder and the shrimp paste and process all the ingredients.

With a mortar and pestle, or in a clean coffee grinder, grind your coriander seeds, peppercorns, and cloves until fine. Add to the food processor and process until everything forms a fine paste.

In a medium sauce pan heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add the paste and coconut sugar. Mix together. Add the lemongrass and bay leaves, and a generous pinch of sea salt and sauté for 7 minutes on low heat. Continue to stir to make sure it doesn't burn. Finally, remove the bay leaves and the lemongrass.

Pour into a glass container and store in the refrigerator for two weeks. You can also freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray. Use in your favorite Balinese recipe or in any stir-fry, soup, or marinade that you are making at home.

Note: Only about 1-2 tablespoons is normally used in a recipe because the sauce is very aromatic. 


1. Reinhart KM1, Talati R, White CM, Coleman CI. The impact of garlic on lipid parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Res Rev. 2009 Jun;22(1):39-48.
2. American Institute for Cancer Research. Foods that Fight Cancerhttp://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/foodsthatfightcancer_garlic.html. Accessed October 23, 2014. 
3. Worlds Healthiest Foods. Garlic. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60. Accessed October 23, 2014. 

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