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Bakso – Indonesian Meatball Soup (Best Street Food!)

05/08/2021

Get ready for Bakso! A flavour packed meatball soup from the streets of Indonesia, with the chewy texture we know and love. Complete with sambal and kecap manis for a sweet and spicy zing!

Big bowl of Indonesian meatball soup.

Why We Love This

We love street food dishes you can easily make at home, and Bakso is no exception. The best part is you can make the meatballs ahead of time, as these are cooked separate from the broth.

If you don’t want the soup, there are so many uses for bakso meatballs. Pop them into Nasi Gila, a pasta sauce, or dowse them in kecap manis (known as bakso kecap!)/

Steaming bowl of bakso soup with noodles and bok choy.

What is Bakso? 

Bakso (pronounced ‘bahk-soh’ with an almost silent ‘k’) means meatball in Indonesian. You’ll sometimes see it written as baso. 

This popular street food dish is very popular in Malang, Indonesian and is said to be Chinese in origin. This is why the texture is so similar to fish and beef balls you’ll find in Chinese cuisine.

If it’s not being served from a street stall or at a food market, it’ll be dished up from street carts towed around by bike or motorbike. It’s usually served up as a meatball soup (sup bakso), and sometimes with noodles, tofu and/or wilted greens (mie / mee bakso). 

Depending on the type of meatballs used, it might be called bakso ayam (chicken meatballs), bakso sapi (beef meatballs) or bakso babi (pork meatballs). 

Where We Learned This

The best bakso we ever ate was from the wandering bakso cart we’d often see around the streets of Seminyak in Bali. The seller would always give us lots of meatballs with generous helpings of kecap manis and sambal slathered over the top. 

Whenever we heard his bell ringing from somewhere close by, we’d race to find him and score ourselves a bowl each, sitting on a curb or tiny stools nearby, chatting away with other hungry locals.

Mr Bakso standing at his street food stall in Bali, Indonesia.

What You’ll Need

For the Meatballs:

  • Beef Mince – For the best texture, use the leanest beef mince you can source. Sub with chicken, turkey, pork mince or even fish if you prefer.
  • Cornstarch – Traditionally this recipe calls for tapioca starch, but this is harder to source where we live, so we use cornstarch. It works just as well. 
  • Baking Powder – 
  • Ice Water – This helps give the meatballs their classic smooth and chewy texture. It’s especially important when blending in a food processor to help keep the mixture cool and easy to blend. 
  • Fried Shallots – These help to give the meatballs an extra burst of flavour. Sub with fried onions or extra garlic if you need.
  • You’ll Also Need: Beef stock powder, egg and garlic. 

For the Soup Base:

  • Beef Stock – We use store-bought beef stock for convenience and to save time. The broth will be even better if you use homemade beef stock. 
  • Lemongrass – Fresh lemongrass adds a hint of earthy citrus to the stock. Bruise it first by squishing with the flat of a knife to help release more flavour into the broth. Sub with jarred lemongrass slices. 
  • You’ll Also Need: Garlic, ginger, celery, spring onion, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Optional Toppings: 

  • Noodles – Vermicelli noodles, rice noodles or egg noodles
  • Tofu – Fried, silken or firm all work well. Or try it with bean curd puffs
  • Greens – Bok choy, gai lan, morning glory or bean sprouts
  • Garnish – Fried shallots, garlic or onions
  • Sauces / Seasonings – Try it with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), chili sambal sauce, tomato sauce or even a splash of lime juice.
Ingredients laid out to make bakso broth.
Ingredients for the meatballs.

Ingredients laid out to make bakso soup base.
Ingredients for the soup base.

How to make Indonesian Bakso – Meatball Soup:

For the meatballs:

  1. Place the beef, garlic, fried shallot, baking powder, beef stock powder and egg into a large mixing bowl. Mix well to combine with your hands. Next, add half the cornstarch and mix through, then half the ice water and mix again. Repeat with the remaining half of the cornstarch and ice water.
  2. Using gloves, make the meatballs by squeezing the mixture a few times between your thumb and forefinger until smooth. The meatball should be the size of a ping pong ball. Scoop off with a teaspoon and place into a large pot of hot water. Note: Watch video for the technique. Alternatively, take tablespoon of mixture, and roll between your palms into a meatball shape.
  3. Pop the pot onto the stove over high heat and bring to the boil. Make sure the meatballs don’t stick to the bottom. They’ll float once they’re cooked through (around 15-20 minutes).

For the soup base:

  1. Pop your garlicgingerchopped celerycrushed lemongrasssugar, spring onion and beef stock into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook for 5 minutes before switching off the heat. Garnish with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. In a large bowl, place 4-5 meatballs and any accompaniments you’d like (bak choy, noodles, tofu etc) before pouring 2-3 ladles over the top. Add your favourite sauces such as sambal and kecap manis, and enjoy!

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Rolling Meatballs – If you find the traditional method for making meatballs difficult, just roll them in your palms instead.
  • Use Gloves – This helps stop the meat mixture sticking to your hands, which is so much easier when forming the meatballs.
  • Smoothest Texture – To get the super smooth texture of traditional bakso meatballs, you ideally need to use a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can still enjoy this dish with meatballs mixed by hand, so don’t let that stop you! 
  • Lumpy Meatballs – If the surface of your meatballs is lumpy after cooking, you can smooth them out by rolling them between your palms once they’ve cooled down enough.
  • Leftover Meatballs? – They go amazing added to other dishes like curried sausages, pasta sauces or campfire stew.

FAQs

What do you eat bakso with?

Bakso is usually served with a spoon and fork. The spoon will help pick up the soup and cut through the meatballs and any other vegetables or tofu, while the fork is great for the noodles and vegetables too.

Can I freeze bakso meatballs?

Yes, you can. Once cooked, drain and allow to semi-cool before popping in an airtight container in the freezer.

Bakso meatballs in beef broth soup with noodles and bok choy.

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★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Beef meatballs in a soup broth with noodles and bok choy.

Bakso – Indonesian Meatball Soup (Best Street Food!)

Get ready for Bakso! A flavour packed meatball soup from the streets of Indonesia, with the chewy texture we know and love. Complete with sambal and kecap manis for a sweet and spicy zing!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 20 meatballs
Calories: 80kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

Bakso Ingredients:

Broth ingredients:

Garnish ideas:

Instructions

For the Meatballs

  • Place the beef, garlic, fried shallot, baking powder, beef stock powder and egg into a large mixing bowl. Mix well to combine with your hands. Next, add half the cornstarch and mix through, then half the ice water and mix again. Repeat with the remaining half of the cornstarch and ice water.
  • Using gloves, make the meatballs by squeezing the mixture a few times between your thumb and forefinger until smooth. The meatball should be the size of a ping pong ball. Scoop off with a teaspoon and place into a large pot of hot water. Note: Watch video for the technique. Alternatively, take tablespoon of mixture, and roll between your palms into a meatball shape.
  • Pop the pot onto the stove over high heat and bring to the boil. Make sure the meatballs don’t stick to the bottom. They’ll float once they’re cooked through (around 15-20 minutes).

For the Soup

  • Pop your garlic, ginger, chopped celery, crushed lemongrass, sugar, spring onion and beef stock into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook for 5 minutes before switching off the heat. Garnish with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve

  • In a large bowl, place 4-5 meatballs and any accompaniments you'd like (bak choy, noodles, tofu etc) before pouring 2-3 ladles over the top. Add your favourite sauces such as sambal and kecap manis, and enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Rolling Meatballs – If you find the traditional method for making meatballs difficult, just roll them in your palms instead.
  • Use Gloves – This helps stop the meat mixture sticking to your hands, which is so much easier when forming the meatballs.
  • Smoothest Texture – To get the super smooth texture of traditional bakso meatballs, you ideally need to use a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can still enjoy this dish with meatballs mixed by hand, so don’t let that stop you! 
  • Lumpy Meatballs – If the surface of your meatballs is lumpy after cooking, you can smooth them out by rolling them between your palms once they’ve cooled down enough.

Nutrition

Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 89mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 18IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Bakso - Indonesian Meatball Soup (Best Street Food!)

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