Fish balls are very common food in Southeast Asia and other part of Asia, such as China and Hong Kong. I grew up eating lots of fish balls. To me, it’s like the meat balls in the western cooking. You can make your own or bought it fresh or frozen from the wet market in Southeast Asia (similar to farmer’s market here in the U.S.). In Indonesia we call fish balls as bakso ikan. Fish balls can be used in cooking such as soup, stir-fry and deep-fry. The deep-fried fish balls are often seen as street food in Hong Kong. Each fish ball is thread in a bamboo skewer like a satay.
So many times I’ve been so tempted to buy the frozen fish balls from the Asian grocery store here, however, when I looked at the ingredients, monosodium glutamate and other chemicals, like borax are often part of it. I missed eating fish balls so much. My mom has a great recipe for fish balls, however, her recipe calls for Spanish Mackerel that I couldn’t find here, so I never attempted to make one.
The difference between the commercially-prepared fish balls and the home-made fish balls is perhaps on the “bounciness” of the fish balls. I read from the local newspaper many years ago at my hometown that the fish balls were prepared by adding formalin so that they were springy and bouncy. The Food and Drug Administration had since then banned the usage of formalin in fish balls (I’m not sure about other food products). It is quite impossible to create that bounciness with home-made fish balls. You can make it firm and kinda springy, but they won’t be the same with the ones prepared with chemicals added. But, I can tell you though, home-made fish balls are good. I like the uneven texture on the fish balls. It kinda tells me that these are home-made stuff.
So, the other day I saw recipe for fish balls at Beyond The Great Wall cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. The recipe calls for any kind of white-fleshed fish. I thought I gave it a try since I haven’t had it for so long. It was surprisingly easy to make. I used tilapia to make the fish balls. I think they turned out alright, probably would be even better if I used Spanish mackerel. If you can get hold of them, I strongly suggest using Spanish mackerel instead. Taste-wise, they were pretty good actually. Freezing weather with a bowl of hot noodle with fish balls soup….yummmbo!
NOODLE SOUP WITH HOME-MADE FISH BALLS
- 4 oz of noodles: you can use any noodles you like. I use home-made egg noodles , the recipe calls for bean threads noodles/cellophane noodles
- 1 tsp roasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 1 lb boneless , white-fleshed skinless fish fillets
- 1/2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 cups water
- 2 scallions , minced
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- About 1/2 lb fish heads and/or bones
- 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
Place the water in a medium pot, add the scallions, ginger, and fish heads and bones, and bring to a vigorous boil. Add the salt, partially cover, and cook at a strong boil for 20 minutes. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for another half hour or so
Strain the fish broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. You should have between 3 and 4 cups broth. Add water if necessary to bring it up to 4 cups. Pour the broth back into the pot, add the vinegar, and taste for salt. Adjust the seasoning if you wish
Meanwhile, place the bean threads in a bowl and add hot water to cover. Let soak for 15 to 20 minutes, then drain. Use scissors to cut them into shorter lengths if you wish. Set aside
Use a cleaver or sharp knife to finely chop the fish. Use the back of the cleaver or knife to pound on the chopped fish until they are completely mashed. Alternatively you can pulse in a food processor as well. I personally think it works better with food processor because it process the fish into a fine paste
Place in a medium bowl, add the minced ginger, cornstarch, and salt, and use your chopsticks or fork to stir in one direction to blend everything. Wrap the bowl and leave it in the refrigerator for at least one hour
Lightly oil a plate. Wet both of your hands with water and scoop up about 1 Tbsp of the mixture and try to press it into a ball between your moistened palms. Set the ball on the plate. It will be a little bumpy perhaps, especially if you hand-chopped the fish; don't worry. Repeat with the remaining fish mixture. You will have about 30-35 balls. Set aside
About 10 minutes before serving the soup, bring the broth to a rapid boil. Add the soaked bean threads and the fish balls and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook at a strong simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fish balls are cooked through; use a slotted spoon to turn the balls over so all sides are exposed to the hot broth. They will turn white and expand a little as they cook
Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil, and serve immediately. You can also individually serve this by allotting about 5 to 6 fish balls to each, as well as noodles, and broth, and top each with several leaves of coriander if you wish