Gecok Ganem – Steamed Beef Meatballs with Coconut Milk Recipe

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook of Yogyakarta’s royal family. I asked my mom to send the recipes to me since she has the cookbook. Originally, this dish uses green tomato to give it a slight sour taste and freshness. But since green tomato is rare in the Netherlands, I used small yellow cherry tomatoes that were still slightly green. You can also use normal red tomato or even belimbing wuluh (bilimbi fruit).

This dish also calls for shallots. If possible, please try to use Asian shallots which are smaller in size but brighter in color. You can buy them at the Asian supermarket (or if you live in the NL, at the toko). They have stronger aroma than the western counterpart. You will also need kencur. Kencur is a sort of aromatic root widely used in Southeast Asian kitchen. Don’t use the powder form as the flavor is not the same. In Indonesian cuisine, we barely use dried or powdered herbs. We tend to use everything in the fresh form.

This dish is steamed inside banana leaves. Banana leaves play a huge role in Indonesian cuisine too. When you steam food inside them, they give it a beautiful aroma that is not substitutable by foil or any other wrapping. Before using banana leaves, fan them on top of your stove or fire. This helps soften the leaves, so they won’t rip easily when you wrap. Gecok ganem is sometimes also called bucok bunem and it’s a variant of garang asem dish famous in Java. It’s not difficult to make, so please give it a try.

Gecok ganem or bucok bunem
Asian shallots, smaller in size but stronger in flavor


Gecok Ganem

Steamed beef meatballs with coconut milk
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 4 people



  • 300 g minced beef
  • 1 egg, use only the white
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A pinch of white pepper

Spice paste:

  • 6 Asian shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cm kencur (sand ginger)
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 2 red chilies, sliced
  • 3 green chilies, sliced
  • 2 green tomatoes (substitute with 10 yellow cherry tomatoes or 2 bilimbi fruits if not available)
  • 2 daun salam (substitute with bay leaves if not available)
  • 2 cm galangal
  • 4 bird eye’s chilies (omit if you don't like spicy)
  • 1/4 maggi bouillon cube, crushed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Banana leaves, for wrapping


  • For the meatballs, mix all the ingredients and make balls as big as walnuts. Boil in hot water and take them out when they float.
  • For the spice paste, simply grind everything in your mortar and pestle or food processor
  • In a bowl, add the meatballs, spice paste, and the rest of the ingredients except for the banana leaves. Adjust the seasoning. Put them all inside the banana leaves and secure it with a stick. To prevent the food from spilling, place the parcel in a bowl.
  • Transfer the bowl into a steamer and steam for 40 minutes. Enjoy with a plate of white rice!
Keyword bucok bunem, gecok ganem, meatballs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating