When the going gets tough, the tough get going and you will find many Indonesians with their ‘backs to the wall’ after a hard day’s work seeking out a light bite to refuel. Meet Bakso, the Indonesian meatballs!
Bakso is the name for the Indonesian meatball, and had a texture similar to the fish balls found in ethnic Chinese cuisine. The name “bakso” originated from the Hokkien pronunciation for “fluffy meat”. Although bakso has Chinese Hokkien origin name, culinary experts suggests that it is likely that bakso was the mixture of culinary influences back in colonial Dutch East Indies. Wherever they came from, I bet Indonesians are delighted they can eat some authentic bakso on their own doorstep!
As a tourist, the only time I can enjoy bakso is when I come to Indonesia. I see them on sale everywhere. Bakso is one of the most popular street foods in Indonesia, and vendors are often frequenting residential areas in Indonesia, while bakso warung and other humble stalls are often sprung on street sides in Indonesian cities. While I do enjoy some pisang goreng or kerak telor to eat on the move, sometimes I fancy more of a fulsome meal to eat when sat down, and bakso fits the bill perfectly! It is not too filling, but it cures my hunger.
Bakso Solo and Bakso Malang are the most popular variants of bakso. Bakso Solo is usually served with yellow noodle and rice vermicelli in beef broth, while Bakso Malang is enriched with tofu and crispy fried wonton. In Bali, you can also find Bakso Babi (pork balls). I don’t remember the first time I ate bakso (I think it was in Jakarta in the Sunda Kelapa area), but one of the best varieties was at Jalan Malioboro in Yogyakarta, when I had some noodles with my meatballs! Bakso are usually served in a bowl of beef broth, with salted vegetables, tofu, egg, Chinese green cabbage, bean sprout, and crispy wontons – as far as I know, the addition of noodles is optional.
Nowadays when I travel around Indonesia and mingle with the hard-working locals, I know that along with other meals like Gado-Gado and Nasi Goreng, I can also enjoy Bakso to get an authentic taste of Indonesian cuisine!