Bakso Mas Kumis

16th February 2024
From street vending with a carrying pole to overseeing today’s ever-busy eatery in Slipi, Pak Sukimin of Bakso Mas Kumis has been serving warming bowls of bakso with a recipe that has remained unchanged since 1972.

Bakso Mas Kumis in Slipi, West Jakarta interminably hums with activities. In an almost endless procession, diners confidently stride past the blue awnings towards the long communal tables, showcasing their frequent patronage of the well-loved establishment. Greeting them, a portrait of the namesake founder himself, Pak Sukimin a.k.a Mas Kumis, hangs on the restaurant wall; a beaming grin underneath a thick moustache (which the nickname is derived from) reminds diners of the man who started it all in 1972.

“Everything has a process,” recounted Pak Ari, a faithful employee of over 10 years—and Pak Sukimin’s journey was no walk in the park. “He went from selling with a pikulan [or a carrying pole hoisted on one shoulder] and making his rounds on foot, then a gerobak [Indonesian for street food cart], to eventually building this eatery in 2001.”

The day begins at 4 AM for the Mas Kumis household. Under Pak Sukimin’s direct guidance, the crew moulds each bakso (meatball) by hand, producing uniformly sized balls with a precision that even a machine could not replicate (they tried); they ground chilli for the sambal that is served in big iron pots on the table, and “the sambal is never watered down, no matter how high the price of chilli goes”; they also follow exact measurements to prepare spices for the crowd-puller broth, which longtime patrons can attest have remained consistent in flavour throughout the years.

Everything is in order before doors open at 9 AM, with freshly made bowls ready to warm hungry stomachs—the soup’s ochre colour already teasing its rich flavour even before the first sip. Each bowl of bakso comes served with bihun (thin rice noodles), additional chunks of meat and an optional side of rice—which Ari claims is a standout amongst bakso joints. Though there’s not much room on the menu for desserts, a nearby food cart sells Es Krim Duren: thick slices of creamy durian and condensed milk wedged between spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream. 

Selling up to 500 bowls a day in online orders and even more for dine-ins (“Just imagining the numbers makes my head explode!” exclaimed Ari), it’s no surprise that they often run out of stock before sunset. Despite Bakso Mas Kumis’ popularity, Pak Sukimin has no intention of branching out, preferring to ensure every little detail from the flavour of the broth to the cleanliness of the dining area can still be executed with precision day in and day out—just how it’s always been done.