Introduction: Indonesian Bakso (Beef Surimi Meatballs)
What is Bakso? It sounds really odd, but if anything it is far from strange and unwelcoming. Bakso is an Indonesian comfort staple served in street vendors, restaurants and at home too. It is popular all over Indonesia and other southeast asian countries because it is so delicious, addictive and everybody no matter how old or young you are, rich or poor, love spicy or non-spicy, I can guarantee that this is love in a meatball.
So what makes Bakso so different from other well known meatballs? Well one most important aspect is that it is made with Beef Surimi. Surimi is basically a meat paste mainly consist of fish; but for Bakso, beef, pork or a combination are used. Surimi also contain cornstarch to give the meatball a naturally spongy springy texture. Not TOO spongy like most commercial packaged meatballs that tends to be slightly tough, but enough to give it a nice chew but still keeping it tender
Also, because surimi (fish, beef, pork etc..) is a paste, using a strong blender is recommended to achieve the smooth, non-chunky consistency. But if you don't have one, that's okay too. All you need your hands and some elbow grease to knead the meat till it reaches the desired texture.
Step 1: Ingredients
Ingredients for Bakso:
1300g of ground beef
2 lemongrass, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves
1 inch of peeled ginger
2 & 1/2 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoon of white granulated sugar
2 tablespoon of black pepper
2 whole eggs
1 cup of cornstarch (divided in half)
An odd ingredient from your common meatball recipe, I add lemongrass because it eliminates the gamey smell of raw or even cooked red meat. It adds a nice refreshing flavor and aroma to many southeast asian recipes. Personally, my children dislike the smell of beef or lamb, this way they actually love eating their meat dishes without getting turned off. This is also a useful trick if you are using slightly old frozen meat that's been sitting in the freezer for quite a bit.
In a blender, blend your lemongrass, garlic and ginger with 1/3 cup of tap water and blend it to a paste. Then pour in your two whole eggs and half a cup of cornstarch into your blender. Blend it again until it reaches a smoothie consistency.
Place your ground beef into your blender with other ingredients. Blend at medium or high speed untillit is smooth and pasty. Pour your beef paste into a large mixing bowl and add in your dry seasoning and the other half of the cornstarch.
Why the cornstarch?
Firstly, the cornstarch acts as a moisture adsorber. It adsorbs excessive liquid that the meat might juice out during the mixing and blending process. Secondly, after it adsorbs the liquid, the bloomed starch gelatinized when exposed to high heat during the cooking process later on. The gelatinized starch gives the meatball a nice springy texture, very popular amongst asian-style meatballs, for ex: Fishballs, Fishcakes, Bakso or even vegetarian foods such as korean rice cakes.
After blending, roll your meatball about the size of small ping pong balls. A useful trick is to roll them with damp or oiled hands, this prevents the paste from sticking to your hands as you roll.
For freezer meatballs:
Lined your tray with parchment paper, so the meatball won't stick to your pan while it freezes. Freeze it completely before transferring and bagging them into a ziplock bag or container.
After balling your meatballs, set aside till ready to cook.
Step 5: To Make the Soup
1 quart of Beef stock
1 quart of water
1/2 of an Onion, unrooted
1 inch of peeled ginger
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
2 tablespoon of salt
1-2 tablespoon of ground black pepper
4 Whole Star Anise
5-6 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamoms
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon (or 1 stick)
1 tablespoon of cumin
2 tablespoon of ground coriander powder
1/3 cup of fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped
Pour and place in all of your soup ingredients into a large soup pot. Turn on the heat to high and let it run into a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook your soup until your onion is tender and translucent. To know if your soup is ready, taste your soup and adjust if you need more or less salt or sugar and your spices shouldn't taste raw. Sprinkle some freshly chopped coriander, to add some depth in your soup.
Once cooked, reduce your stove to low/warm.
In a medium sauce pot, begin heating water till it starts boiling. Also prepare a large bowl of water on the side.
Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place your meatballs into the water. The meatballs will be ready when they start to float to the top. Cook for a minute or two and then transfer the cooked meatballs into the bowl of water to rinse off any scum that might stick to it. As it cools, it will start to sink again.
Cook for a minute or two and then transfer the cooked meatballs into the bowl of water to rinse off any scum that might stick to it. As it cools, it will start to sink again.
After rinsing them, transfer them into your soup and let it sit in there for at least 5 minutes so the surface of the meatball will be coated with flavor (not that it is not flavorful already!)
Step 10: Chilli Condiment
10 Thai Bird's Eye Chilli, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce or dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar
2 tablespoon of soup broth
Place all ingredients in a ramekin. Pour some hot soup broth and mix until the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside until ready to use.
Step 11: Ready to Garnish
If you wish, your Bakso can be serve with multiple things, whatever your heart's desire.
I add on:
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
5 Sprigs of thick scallions, bottom white only
Fresh cilantro/coriander, roughly chopped
Glass noodles (or any noodles of your choice, yellow lo mein, rice vermicelli, macaroni elbows etc..)
Step 12: Serve!
To serve, you can either place your noodles at the bottom of your bowl or if you are like me, set it aside on a different bowl together with the rest of the garnish and pour a ladle full of soup to hydrate and flavor your garnish. And in a different bowl, pour your soup and Bakso meatballs and sprinkle some cilantro at the top for some added greenery. Serve immediately and hot. Enjoy!
First Prize in the
Comfort Food Challenge