Indonesians have for many years made up one of the largest groups of migrant workers in Malaysia. We're happy about that, because where migrant workers go good, authentic versions of their local favorites often follow. Thus, here in KL we've been able to sample home country-worthy versions of nasi Padang and pecel jawa and, now, bakso.
Also known as baso or ba'so, bakso -- meat balls, essentially -- are a ubiquitous Indonesian street food. Served in broth, with or without noodles, they show up in a range of sizes and regional variations (bakso tenis, for example - east Javanese tennis ball-sized meatballs containing a hard-boiled egg).
Restoran TAR, an Indonesian nosh spot sited on a busy corner within spitting distance of Chow Kit's monorail station, boasts a stall serving up a golf ball-sized version. The vendor hails from Solo, east of Jogjakarta, and maintains that his bakso are as close as they come (in KL) to those served in his hometown.
It's not a complicated dish: soup, noodles, balls, greens. We find this vendor's broth to be truly meaty and free of artificial-tasting MSG oomph. Mee (noodles) are served a bit al dente - a good thing, as they'll continue to cook in the bowl, though in all truth noodles are second fiddle to meat balls in this dish - and greens are plentiful. Slivers of fried shallots and bits of coriander round out the bowl.
Now, about the bakso. These, made with a bit of tapioca flour, successfully straddle that fine line between chewy and rubbery enough to bounce around the mouth like a super ball. There's a bit of resistance to the teeth, but not enough to send a meat ball flying out the pie hole at first chomp. Good, discernible meat flavor combined with a pleasing texture. Thumbs up.
The whole rises above 'pretty darned good' with a generous squeeze of tart and fiery fresh chile sambal from the plastic ketchup bottle on our table.
If you've made a stop at Restoran TAR it's worth also tucking into the rojak sayur ('sayur' = vegetable) offered by the sturdy woman manning, as it were, the rojak stall out front. She makes the peanut 'dressing' to top her 'salad' of cooked cabbage, long beans, sprouts, cucumber, and fried tofu to order, grinding nuts with other ingredients in a batu base, the traditional Indonesian saucer-like stone mortar. A request for 'spicy' delivered a peanut sauce that, behind its cloak of sweetness, packed a whallop of a burn.
The truly gluttonous will want to end their meal with a grossly humongous Indonesian cendol, a tower of shaved iced doused with coconut milk and palm sugar and, if you wish, chocolate. We weren't up for it, but we hail those at neighboring tables who rose to the challenge.
Special Khas Solo bakso, rojak sayur, and cendol stalls at Restoran TAR, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman just below the monorail station, 2 minutes' walk from Chow Kit Market. Nasi Padang and ikan bakar (at night) are also served here. Seating is proprietary - you must order from a vendor's stall to earn the right to sit at his/her tables (ie., if you want to claim a streetside table, make rojak sayur or the cendol a part of your meal).