Named by CNN as among the 40 best Indonesian dishes, bakso is essentially a street food and American President Obama loves it.
What is bakso? Bakso is Indonesian meatball. When served with noodles and broth, the dish is mee bakso. But meatballs are ubiquitous in Asian noodle soups — what makes the Indonesian bakso different? Bakso, whether meat, seafood or chicken-based, are denser and richer because of the paste used to make them. The paste is called surimi.
Like laksa, there is no definitive recipe for making mee bakso. The soup can be made from meat, seafood or chicken, or a combination of all of them. The meatballs can have beef, pork, chicken, fish or other seafood.
In Asia, a wide array of meat and fish balls are available in groceries. That's not always the case outside Asia. While bakso can be bought in Asian stores if you're lucky, if you're wary about not knowing what exactly is in them, it is easy enough to make bakso at home. Grind ground meat or seafood with seasonings and spices until the mixture acquires the texture of a tacky paste. A food processor is convenient but not essential. Form the paste into balls and cook in boiling broth.
Once you have your meatballs, it is easy to assemble a bowl of mee bakso. What takes time is making the broth which you really want to be good and rich and tasty. And that takes long and slow cooking.
- 5 pounds beef bones (preferably from the shank and with the marrow intact)
- 1 knob of ginger (peeled)
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
- a 2-inch piece of cinnamon bark
- 3 cardamom pods, lightly pounded
- 3 cloves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 18 meatballs
- 1 small carrot (thinly sliced)
- 4 cups of spinach (or bok choy, rinsed)
- 3 cups egg noodles (cooked)
- 1/2 cup crisp-fried shallots (store-bought is okay)
- Place the beef bones in a pot. Cover with water. Bring to the boil; skim off any scum that rises. Add the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns. Simmer for at least two hours.
- Strain the broth and pour back into the pot; discard the bones and aromatics. Heat the broth until simmering. Drop in the meatballs.
- Using a kitchen spider, blanch the sliced carrot and spinach separately in the hot broth.
- Divide the noodles among three bowls.
- Divide the carrot slices and spinach into three portions and put in the bowls next to the noodles.
- Ladle the hot soup and meatballs directly into the bowls.
- Top each bowl with crisp-fried shallots and split hard-boiled eggs, if using.
- Serve at once.