Indonesian street food : Bakso (meatball soup)


“Ding, Ding”
“Ding, Ding”

“What’s that noise?”

The first few days in Indonesia followed this pattern, at some point in the day until we saw the bakso cart parked outside our hostel. The seller either rings a bell or taps their spoons onto the plastic bowls to make their presence known!

Bakso is ‘meatball’. A type of processed ball, similar in size and texture to Chinese fish balls. They are made by mixing meat and spices in a food processor until a paste, then balling them up and boiling. When they are done, they float. Many street sellers will use flour to make the meat go further.

One of the best things about bakso is the variation, whether you’re in Bali, or Java there are temporary roadside restaurants selling chicken bakso, beef, shrimp and fish! The balls can be skewered and griddled to give it a crispy outside. Many stalls in Muslim Java offer halal bakso, too.

The stalls, like the meals can be any variation on street carts, a hand pulled cart, one of the strange contraptions where they carry it on foot with a pole over the shoulder or a modified motorbike with gas bottles and glass casing attached to the rear like some sort of volatile panniers. Just look for the hand daubed ‘bakso’ on the side.

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following links – Thanks, lostmyway_0101 & khensiong

The dish is fairly simple, meatballs a beef stock made using the liquids the balls are cooked in and some soy to add saltiness and colour to the broth.

Fried tempe, a type of soy product similar to tofu but with less density is also added. Personally, I can take of leave the tempe because after a few minutes in the broth it breaks down a bit and has the texture of an old washing up sponge.

If you’re really lucky you might get a boiled egg, wrapped in bakso meat too. Kind of like an Indonesian scotch egg, I guess.

For me, the beauty of bakso is that you see all types of people eat it. Males, females, young and the old; Hindus, Muslims and anybody else. A bit like Phó in Vietnam, its food for everyone.

When we went diving in Amed, the bakso bike turned up and everyone from the dive shop went out to get a bowl.

“Bakso is good for you after diving, makes you strong!”  

Technically, I’ve read online that bakso is not really very good for you! The way the balls are made generates some sort of protein which can be harmful to your liver over a 5-10 year period if you consume a lot, however it’s not going to stop me having a couple of bowls here and there and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Don’t pay more than 10’000rp for a bowl!


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