Bakso is an Indonesian beef ball similar to the Chinese or Vietnamese varieties. Like all Asian beef balls, they are dense yet spongy, with a texture similar to fish cake. The key component of this texture is pulverizing the meat into a paste, and it’s a great alternative to your typical uses for ground beef.
Slideshow: Ground Beef Recipes
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork or chicken
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
One 1/2-inch piece grated ginger or galangal (or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
1/4 cup water
1 cup beef broth
One 1-inch piece whole ginger or galangal, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1/2 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
1 pound Chinese cabbage (choy sum or kai lan preferred), washed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, julienned
Chopped cilantro to garnish
How to Make It
Step 1 Prepare the meat
Mix all of the beef ball ingredients together by hand, then transfer to a food processor. Process the meat until bright pink, finely mixed and somewhat sticky in texture. Stop the processor every minute and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Transfer the meat paste to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Step 2 Cook the beef balls
Bring 5 quarts of water to boil, then reduce heat until it is gently simmering. Wet hands, then grab some of the meat in one hand; squeeze the meat through with thumb and index finger, then scoop away the ball with a spoon and gently drop into the boiling water. Once the ball starts to float, let it simmer for 2 more minutes, then fish it out and place in a bowl of ice water. Check the first meatball or two to make sure they’re cooked through. Repeat this procedure with all of the meat; it’s easiest to have someone making the balls while someone else monitors the balls for doneness and fishes them out. Once all of the balls are cooked and in the ice bath, strain and rinse them gently with cold water. At this point, the beef balls are done. Enjoy right away or freeze for later use. If you want to enjoy them immediately, proceed to step 3.
Spoon out any fat or chunks from the water used to boil the beef balls to use as soup base. Add the beef broth, ginger/galangal, cinnamon stick, black cardamom pods and whole cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry, then remove the ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, white pepper and salt to taste.
Add the Chinese cabbage and blanch for 30 seconds, then add them to the soup bowls. Do the same with the carrots, but blanch for only 10 seconds. Add the beef balls to the soup and return to a simmer, then scoop the balls and broth into individual bowls. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Feel free to experiment with the types of meat. Since Indonesia is a predominately Muslim country, Bakso is commonly made with just beef or mixed with chicken.
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