Chinese fishballs. I can’t live without them. Little glossy rounds of bouncing deliciousness, fishballs are mild in flavour, making them a wonderful ingredient in all sorts of dishes in East and South East Asia. You’ll find them in soups, in noodles, in sambals and in fried rice.
The good news is, you can easily make them at home.
Homemade Chinese Fishballs Recipe
You may have heard, you may have read, that Chinese fishballs can be tricky. Too soft, too hard, not bouncy enough and a myriad of other scenarios.
Let me put your mind at ease. Just follow the recipe, and you’ll be playing mini basketball with those fishballs in no time at all!
All you need to make Chinese fishballs at home:
- white fish
- white pepper
Some people add egg to their fishball paste, or cornflour as binders. You’ll find that this is more so in Chinese fishballs in China, as opposed to Chinese fishballs in Singapore and Malaysia, where I come from. As you can see from the recipe below, I don’t bother with either, as that’s how I grew up eating them.
What fish to use to make Chinese Fishballs?
Traditionally, wolf herring (ikan parang) or Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri) is used to make fishballs. However, for those of us who don’t have access to either, any type of white fish will do the job perfectly; tilapia, bass, catfish, grouper or cod. The tastier the fish, the tastier your fishballs.
How to make bouncy Fishballs?
The trick is in the mixing of the paste. The traditional method is to mix it all up, then to throw the paste down onto your kitchen counter from a height, about 60-70 times! Not unlike when making kebabs without binders in them.
But honestly, when it comes to fishballs and meatballs, I’ve found that your food processor, with a paddle attachment, does the job perfectly, quicker and much better!
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Another traditional method is also to first scrape your fish meat from its skin, then mince it all up with a large knife.
Yeah, not something I bother with either. I get my fishmonger to prepare the fish, then get it all minced in the chopper when I get home. Because that’s what the chopper is for!
How to shape Chinese Fishballs
This part, I stick with tradition. All you do, is scoop up the meat, and squeeze a small ball through your thumb and forefinger, just like I showed you when making the Chinese meatballs. However, roll them up like regular meatballs if you’re more comfortable with it.
Fishcakes and fish rolls
You can also shape the paste as a roll or a regular fishcake, like those small Thai ones. Fishcakes and fish rolls are also very popular and common garnishes or ingredients in noodle and soup dishes.
How to use Chinese Fishballs
- As garnish for noodles and fried rice
As mentioned above, fishballs make a great garnish for noodles and fried rice, especially when they are fried. After you’ve boiled them (recipe below), just lightly fry for a minute or so in a little oil, to brown and crisp the outside.
- As an ingredient in fried rice, fried noodles and stir fries
Slice them up in half or quarters and add them to your stir fries towards the end, and heat through before serving up.
- Great in Asian style soups
I quite often drop fishballs or meatballs into the soups we have, just to add some “bite”. They are great in any miso soup.
- Fried or grilled, on skewers, just like satay, as in the image above. They make great finger food too.
LinsFood Recipes that are Fishball Friendly
Let’s get our aprons on!
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Homemade Chinese Fishballs
- 500 g white fish
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- ½ cup water
- Mince the fish in a chopper.
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor, if you have one, and mix on low for 2 minutes. Then increase he speed to medium and continue mixing for a good 3 minutes until you have a sloppy, gloopy mix. Alternatively, place all the ingredients into a bowl, and mix throughly with your hands. Then, pick the whole mixture up and throw it down onto the counter (or chopping board) from about a foot up. Do this about 60 times, by which time the fish paste will have achieved that springy consistency synonymous with fishballs.
- Have a large bowl of iced water to drop the fishballs into.. And a smaller bowl of cold water to dip your hands into periodically, to stop the paste from sticking too much to your hands.
- Form little balls with the paste, either with the traditional method (see video on how to roll Chinese meatballs, below) or the usual way by rolling the between your hands. Drop the balls into the large bowl until you’re ready to cook them.
Cooking the Fishballs
- Bring a large saucepan of water, with 1 Tbsp salt added, to boil. Lower the heat to medium, then slowly drop the fishballs into the boiling water, no more than 10 at a time.
- The fishballs are done when they float up, perhaps 2-3 minutes.
- Fish them out with a skimmer or slotted spoon and set them aside while you get the rest done. They are ready to be added to whatever recipe you want to use them in. See examples above.