The name Bakso originated from bak-so (肉酥, Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-so·), the Hokkien pronunciation for "shredded meat" (Rousong). This suggests that bakso has Indonesian Chinese cuisine origin. Today most of the bakso vendors are Javanese from Wonogiri (a town near Solo) and Malang. Bakso Solo and Bakso Malang are the most popular variant; the name comes from the city it comes from, Solo in Central Java and Malang in East Java. In Malang, Bakso Bakar (roasted bakso) is also popular. As most Indonesians are Muslim, generally Bakso is made from beef or is mixed with chicken.
In Indonesia, borax is often added into beef surimi mixture in order to preserve the produced bakso, also to made bakso more chewy (from borax induced myosin cross-linking) with less usage of meat. As a result, bakso is often listed by Indonesian Food and Drug Administration as an unhealthy foodstuff. The country's Directorate of Consumer Protection warns of the risk of liver cancer caused by high consumption over a period of 5–10 years. Therefore, frozen bakso being sold at supermarkets and also traditional markets in Indonesia are required to be borax free.