Having spent a few years of my childhood in the capital of North Sumatra, I’m no stranger to the delicious Bakso Lebong. However, since I left Medan in 1996 and residing in Jakarta, I have becoming a frequent visitor of Bakso Akiaw 99 in Mangga Besar, which I, prematurely, assumed to be a branch of Bakso Lebong.
Although they’re using two different names, I had never clarified my assumption until my last visit to Medan. As I entered the outlet in Jalan Lebong, I was welcomed with a simple yet clean interior. The shop wasn’t as chaotic as Bakso Akiaw 99, since it was empty at a time I came in. I quickly ordered a bowl of Bakso (beef meatballs) and sat in one of the empty tables. I browsed through my surrounding and discovered that they’re also offering Liong Tahu (fish balls soup mixed with touf and bitter gourd). Since I had never tried it, I called the owner to include the dish in my order.
After waiting for around five minutes, my orders arrived. I dumped a spoonful of chilli to the hot Bakso soup and began mixing it. A heavenly beef broth aroma wafted through the air, which instantly increased my appetite. I took a bite of the Bakso Lebong’s signature sliced beef and surprised to discover that it was totally different from Bakso Akiaw 99. Bakso Lebong’s beef featured a balance of sweet and savoury flavours, which, in my opinion, was better than Bakso Akiaw’s overly sweet meat. The Bakso itself was chewy and flavourful contrasted with a rich beef broth soup.
Moreover, the Liong Tahu was a good choice if you want a lighter meal. Using fish as the main ingredient, the chewy fish ball neutralised the strong bitter gourd flavour.
Feeling satisfied, I went up to pay my bill and asked the owner a few questions. According to him, the original meatball recipe came from his grandfather. The business itself started when his late father was only a teenager. As for Bakso Akiaw 99, apparently the Jakarta-based meatball shop is running under his sibling’s management, which explains the differences in taste.
Jl. Lebong, No. 20,
Medan, North Sumatra
Open daily from 10am-10pm
Rp.30,000/US$2.30 per person