Bala-bala – Indonesian fried vegetable fritters

Bala-bala, Indonesian fried vegetable fritters, found from the humble kaki-lima {or food carts} on the streets all over Indonesia, from big cities to small villages. Look hard amongst all the tempting “gorengan” or fried snacks that are available including; pisang goreng {fried banana}, tahu goreng {fried tofu}, tempe goreng {fried fermented soy bean}, tahu isi {fried tofu filled with vegetables}, singkong goreng {fried cassava}, ubi goreng {fried sweet-potato} and if you’re really lucky you might also find donat kampung {literally translated to village donut} – a simple donut powdered with icing sugar. Amongst all these fried snacks, you will also find the all time favourite; bala-bala or Indonesian fried vegetable fritters.

Indonesian fried snacks – Jalan Malioboro, Yogyakarta

I first discovered bala-bala in West Java many, many years ago, hence I will always call this delicious snack by it’s Sundanese {West Java} name; bala-bala. Also commonly known as bakwan in many parts of Indonesia, ote-ote in Bali and I’m sure there are various other local names for these vegetable fritters across Indonesia. Originally, bak wan comes from Chinese origin, along with other Chinese recipes such as; bakpao {meat bun}, bakso {meatball} and bakmi {meat noodles}.

Okay, we’re all friends here, so let’s be honest, we all love the deliciously naughty gorengan found on the streets of Indonesia, am I right? We all know we probably shouldn’t be eating these deliciously, oily snacks but it’s part of immersing yourself in the Indonesian culture and daily life, right? Totally! One of my absolute favourite Indonesian fried snacks is bala-bala, made from a variety of mixed vegetables such as; bean sprouts, shredded cabbage and carrots, battered and deep fried in cooking oil.

Of course, there are various different recipes out there for bala-bala, and they obviously vary depending on which region it is from but today I want to share with you a very simple recipe for bala-bala, one that is so simple you could make it with Primary aged students. I’ve made both perkedel jagung {Check out the recipe for Indonesian corn fritters here.} and bala-bala with primary aged students and they loved it. It’s also a fav at my home, especially on cold Sunday afternoons, it makes for a great snack.

So, here goes. First in English and I’ll pop a link below to a pdf doc of the recipe in bahasa Indonesia too!

Don’t worry, you can thank me later! 😉



1.5 cups wheat flour

2 tbsp rice flour

250 mls cold water

2 cloves of garlic, pureed

3 shallots, pureed

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp chicken powder

2 spring onions

1/2 cup bean sprouts

2 cups thinly sliced vegetables {carrot, cabbage, green beans}

1/2 cup corn

cooking oil


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.

2. Heat the oil and place spoonfuls of mixture into a frying pan. Fry the bala-bala and turn them over until golden brown and cooked.

3. Place bala-bala on paper towel to drain off excess oil.

4. Serve while still warm with sambal or fresh chilli.

{When cooking with students, sweet chilli sauce is a good alternative sauce.}

*Locals eat bala-bala with fresh green chillies, one bite of fritter followed by a bite of green chilli, and repeat.

So, there you have it folks, a simple recipe for Indonesian bala-bala or bakwan. Coba, saja! Just try it!

For a version of the recipe in Bahasa Indonesia, please click here.

Selamat makan teman-teman!

Are you someone who just has to stop and buy gorengan when in Indonesia?

Do you love bala-bala/bakwan? Or do you have a different favourite snack?

Do you love incorporating Indonesian cooking into your classroom or at home?


  1. Ruth says

    Thanks Julie for this. Will keep it with my Indo recipes for when I do my unit on Indo food.
    It is also a good one for Food Tech students to use carefully as part of entree snacks.

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