Balinese Chicken & Coconut Meatballs


Growing up, the Indonesian food we ate was mainly Javanese cuisine. The food from Indonesia’s most populous island, with its generous inclusion of kecap manis (sweet soy) or gulah Jawa (palm sugar), has a deserved reputation of being on the sweet side. Because of this, Balinese cuisine and its mix of spices and fragrance, has always intrigued us. A few years back we did some cooking classes in Ubud, Bali where we got to learn a few of the tricks that are typical of the food from the island. 

Much of Balinese cooking is built on the foundation of a spice paste called Basa Genep. A mixture of aromatic spices, chilli, garlic and shallots, Basa Genep provides the colour and fragrance that is synonymous with many Balinese dishes. One such offering is Sate (Satay) Lilit. When we took the class in Ubud we still owned a satay restaurant in Melbourne, so the relevance of these Balinese satay skewers was appealing.

Satay Lilit is made from spiced mince (chicken, pork, fish, etc) pressed onto skewers (often lemon grass sticks). The addition of shredded coconut gives it a distinctly Balinese taste, taking you right back to your last holiday there. Recently, we had the idea of adapting a Satay Lilit recipe into something that was less labor intensive, quicker to prepare and fun for my near-3 year old boy to scoff down. Thus, Balinese chicken and coconut meatballs.

We're taking the most important ingredients of the Basa Genep and creating a snack that pairs beautifully with peanut sauce, kecap manis and chilli sauce. Served alongside steamed rice, it becomes a fully fledged meal!


(Makes approx. 20 small balls)

3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 shallots (or 1 small onion)
25g root ginger (peeled)
2 small red chillis (for heat use birdseye) or 1 large red chilli
1 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
½ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
3 ground cloves
500g minced free range chicken (can use pork or fish if you prefer)
2 fresh lime leaves (or freeze dried cut into fine strips with scissors
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut
¼ tsp salt
½ jar of Eighteen Thousand Islands Satay Sauce

Eighteen Thousand Islands Chilli Sauce and Kecap Manis as side dips (optional)


Finely chop the shallots/onion, ginger and chilli. Discard the seeds from the chilli if you want less heat. Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots, ginger, and chilli as well as the crushed garlic and fry gently for about 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of water, the turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, ground cloves and pepper. Fry all for a further minute – there should be a pretty wonderful aroma about now. Remove from heat and allow to cool before adding to a pestle and mortar to turn into a paste. Giving it a good bash and twist, you should have your paste in about 4-5 minutes.

Mix the mince chicken/pork/fish thoroughly in with the paste, coconut, lime leave strips and salt till it’s a consistent texture and colour. Now it’s time to roll your meatballs. I reckon these are best around a 3cm diameter. Cook your meatballs on bbq hotplate or grill for approximately 10 minutes, rotating once or on a foil covered tray in the oven on 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, rotating once after 10 minutes. Be sure to check they’re cooked through, as bbq’s and ovens vary!

Heat the satay sauce gently and place into a small bowl on the side. Serve meatballs while hot alongside steamed white rice if desired. Sweeten with kecap manis and spice things up with chilli sauce. Enjoy!