Indonesia - Chinese meatballs at Bakso Gondhol
Bakso Gondhol started off in 1970 as Bakso Gundul – a very popular Indonesian-Chinese meatball spot. The restaurant got its current name through a series of mis-spelling by the signboard painter when it moved into its current premises, and a surprisingly tolerant restaurant owner (son of the founder) who didn’t insist that the spelling errors were rectified. Business remained as good as always, so I guess no “feng shui” elements were disturbed by the accidental name change.
Indonesian-Chinese “bakso” meatballs are usually made from a mixture of minced pork, with an unusually high percentage of tapioca flour or corn flour, plus various additives & seasonings. No, it’s not healthy food.
The various steamed & deep-fried morsels are put in a bowl, steeped in a clear, light consommé, topped with finely-chopped spring onions. The soup, like many other dishes in Indonesia, is usually served lukewarm, and not piping hot as I’d have preferred.
A typical bakso lunch at Gondhol will consist of, amongst others:
- “Tahu isi”, tofu puffs stuffed with minced pork;
- ”Siomay basah”, Indonesian-Chinese version of the Cantonese siu-mai (燒賣), though the Indonesian dumpling was much larger, coarser and bore more resemblance to an Aussie dim sim than a delicate HK siu-mai;
- “Siomay goreng”, deep-fried version of the siomay – now THIS one looked & tasted 90% like an Aussie dim sim, except that the Indonesian one has a lighter “cleaner” taste, as compared to the fetid, cloying greaseball that’s a dim sim;
- “Ca yen”/”Bakso goreng”, boiled and also deep-fried meatballs – the sort with the springy texture that I didn’t quite take to.
Two types of sauces are served with the bakso: a hot-as-hell chilli sauce which can be used as a dip, or else drizzled over the meatballs & soup – giving your soup a cloudy reddish hue, or a tomato-based Indonesian-Chinese version of the Chinese hoi-sin (海鮮醬).
Jl. Letjen Sunandar Priyosudarmo No. 31/35
Kav. 10, Malang
Interesting, thanks for the report.
Reading this and the previous accounts of your regarding "Chinese" food in Indonesia -
- Would you say "Chinese" food in Indonesia is generally 'coarsened' (compared with what happens to Chinese food in Malaysia/Singapore) - or is not, as the case may be?
- Are there any "real" Chinese restaurants or stalls serving actual Chinese food, rather than Indonesian-Chinese food? [in hotels?]
- Is Chinese spoken anymore by the folks there?
ETA: I just looked up the Wikipedia articles on Chinese Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesian Cuisine; wondering about your take on the local scene.
Hi huiray, the Indonesian-Chinese has a strong identity similar to Malacca/Singapore/Penang's Peranakan Baba-Nyonya culture, and their food has its own particular (or should I say, peculiar)tastes.
Indonesian-Chinese street foods, e.g. bakmie, bakso, pangsit mie, etc. are pretty rustic and, perhaps due to the harsher environment there, do not have the finesse or freshness of ingredients which one finds in, say, Penang, Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City's street food cultures.
There are restaurants which serve "real" Chinese food, especially in Jakarta, whilst in East Java, there will be places like the Sarkies Seafood Restaurant at Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya here. But the food will still already be tweaked to suit local Indonesian-Chinese tastes.
The Indonesian-Chinese don't speak Chinese, but converse in Bahasa Indonesia or local dialects like Jawa to each other. I can't understand the East Javanese dialect. For example, "How are you?" is "Apa khabar?" in Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Indonesia, but in East Javanese, they say "Apo kabore, cak?".
Above description of Indonesian-Chinese is too general. Indonesian-Chinese is very diverse; very few share any resemblance to Malacca's Peranakan culture at all. Chinese in Medan, Jakarta or Malang would have their own sub culture, own distinct food scene that incorporate local elements. For example, Medan Chinese would tend to speak in Hokkien dialect, Jakarta Chinese in Bahasa Indonesia and Jawanese Chinese in Jawa. And it also depend on the age group, many elders still able to speak Mandarin fluently.
Even food culture is not identical. Just using these 3 cities as example, you would sample different style of "Chinese" food. Medan tends to focus more on Southern Hokkein dishes like Kwa Tiao Goreng, Bebek Bihun etc while Jakarta has a strong Hakka scene. Even taste bud is different too, for example, Chinese in Central Jawa has stronger palate for sweet stuffs.