Chinese noodle soup with fish balls (Bakso)
‘Bakso or baso is an Indonesian meatball or meat paste made from beef surimi (ground meat). Bakso can be found all across Indonesia; from the traveling cart street vendors to restaurants‘ (wiki).
Bakso can be made with fish too. Beb Vuyk has a fish bakso in her book. I’m eager to try this recipe, but unfortunately, I fail terribly. That does not sound very hopeful, but I’ve kept on experimenting and I’ve succeeded ;-).
Adapting the original recipe
I had to adapt the preparation of the original recipe though. The problem is that the fish mixture (surimi) remains too wet when I follow the original Beb recipe. Maybe it’s the fish or the way it is conserved now compared to 1973, when Beb wrote her book.
My balls fall apart in the soup. I then added more cornstarch but that didn’t work either. The balls taste too much like flour (terrible). I use cod from the freezer (according to Beb’s recipe that works too). The fish paste remains too wet after defrosting and draining. I looked up different
I looked up different bakso recipes online and changed four things about Beb’s recipe:
- I do not use egg white
- I use salmon and plaice. Salmon is an oily fish and helps to mix the fish into a smooth paste.
- I use a blender to make surimi (ground fish meat)
- When the balls are done, I let them cool in ice water
This recipe is definitely enough for 4 people for lunch for example. This bakso is ready in 50 minutes. Below Beb’s recipe for bakso-mie. Where I do it differently, I’ve added a comment.
Chinese noodle soup with fish balls (Bakso-mie) #129 translated from Beb Vuyk’s Groot Indonesisch Kookboek, page 133.
1 liter fish stock, possibly chicken broth from bouillon tablets
200 gram of cod fillets (you can use cod from the freezer) – I use salmon and plaice fillets
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 egg white – I do not use egg white
100 grams of noodles
Herbs and spices
juice of 3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (vetsin) – I do not use vetsin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons of finely chopped celery
Finely chop the cod fillets as fine as possible or use a meat grinder. Mix the fish with the corn starch, egg white, sugar, salt, pepper, vetsin and garlic juice. Make small balls the size of a large marble. The easiest way is to cover one’s hands with a little cornstarch or flour or use wet hands.
Bring the broth to a boil. Add the balls and let them cook until they float. Remove them from the broth, add the noodles (which are pre-soaked in water). Let the soup boil for 2 to 3 minutes, warm the fish balls in it and stir the celery through before serving.
Serve with soy sauce and lemon wedges.
This is how I make bakso fish balls.
The fish balls are in terms of seasoning very easy. The bakso consists of garlic, pepper, salt, and sugar. Because they are cooked in a fish broth they suck up more flavor.
The picture shows one egg white, but I do not use it in my version of bakso. It causes the balls to disintegrate in the soup.
I buy salmon and plaice fillets. It is so much tastier to use a oily fish (salmon). The oil makes the fish more smooth and sticky and delivers easy to form compact balls.
I also see bakso recipes online with mackerel; another fat fish. That sounds delicious too.
I add the fish, garlic, pepper, salt and a tablespoon of cornstarch in a jug. Then blend it on high speed with my emersion blender.
While mixing the fish into a smooth paste, I warm up a liter of broth made with one cube of fish stock.
With a small spoon, I lay the balls gently into the simmering broth.
Leave the pan on medium heat and gently cook the balls for a minute or two.
When they float to the surface they are done.
I take them out immediately and let them cool in ice water. This allows the balls to remain tender and moist.
This allows the balls to remain tender and moist.
Just before serving, I bring the bouillon to the boil and add the noodles. I let it simmer for a minute.
Then I add the fish balls to warm them up again.
Beb uses celery to finish the dish. I think bakso is lovely too with fresh coriander.
In a bowl, I pour in some sweet soy sauce and a few drops of lemon juice. I top it off with some bawang goreng (fried onions).
Makan! The bakso is deliciously salty and the fish balls taste very fresh and juicy; the perfect lunch. For extra spiciness check the Indonesian chili salsa recipes (sambals) on this website.