Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
How to Make Fish Balls (鱼蛋)

How to Make Fish Balls (鱼蛋)

Today, we wanted to show you how to make fishballs
– first showing how you can make your own fishballs at home, from scratch… then also
show you two different dishes that you can make with them. The ever popular Hong Kong curry fishball
of course, but also a simple, classic Chaozhou-style fishball soup that can be found throughout
Guangdong. Now, it should bear mentioning that frozen
fishballs should be readily available at like every Asian supermarket… so if you’re
not interested a fishball-from-scratch project obviously feel free to jump ahead in the video. Now the type of fishball we’re doing is
the salt-water fish sort – they’re a little bit more challenging but are the standard
fishball in Hong Kong. There’s three types of fish that’re commonly
used for salt-water fishballs: nageyu, which’s a type of lizardfish and probably the best
for fishball… big eye snapper, which’s unfortunately a bit rich for our blood, and
Spanish mackerel, which we’ll be using today for ease of international replication. Ultimately though I think anything that’d
be good for surimi would work here… filleted as you would fillet any fish. Once you get your fillet of mackerel though,
soak them for an hour or two in cool water, then slice the guy in half and cut out that
fatty middle bit, together with any extra bits of fatty flesh. Mackerel meat is nice and firm which’s why
it’s good for fishball, but it’s definitely a bit on the fatty side which’s why it’s
not the very best. So then with your knife just scrape the meat
off the fillet and, after you work through all that, toss in a bowl. Now, unless you happen to be some sort of
master sushi chef, you’ll probably have a touch of meat still on the bones after filleting…
no problem at all, just be sure to scrape that stuff off too. Save the bones for stock, and with that we
ended up with 550 grams of fish meat in all. So take a cleaver and get that into a fine
mince, periodically folding the meat over itself as we always do. Now obviously, depending on your fish you
might end up with a bit more or a bit less meat, just adjust these upcoming ratios if
you end up with something significantly different. But after about five minutes of mincing just
wrap that up, and pop in the fridge for an hour to chill right down. An hour later, we’re good to make some fishballs. We’ll need to stir this to form a nice paste,
which you can totally do with chopsticks if you’re so inclined. Mackerel unfortunately takes a bit more elbow
grease than some other breeds and so in the interest of going easy on ourselves, today
we wanted to use a stand mixer. Now, for this and basically all meat emulsions,
you gotta avoid things getting so warm that the fat in the meat starts melting. Especially with a stand mixer that can be
a variable, so our high tech solution was to strap on some ice packs with an exercise
resistance band. So to your fish toss in one teaspoon salt,
one teaspoon sugar, a quarter teaspoon white pepper powder, and optionally-ish 55 grams
of sweet potato starch. See, with a fish like nageyu or snapper you
actually don’t need the starch, but because mackerel’s so oily it does really help. Now, as that’s going we’ll be slowly be
drizzling in liquid – this was 15 milliliters of liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine together with
120 mL of water in ice cube form. So toss in a bit to get started, and with
the paddle attachment let that go on speed three and periodically drizzle in more liquid. After about five minutes, your liquid should
be completely incorporated, so scrape down the paddle and let that continue to mix for
30 minutes more, every once in a while scraping the paddle in the same way. After thirty minutes, you should be looking
at a fish paste that’ll obviously stick to your skin rather than slide if you smeared
it across your finger. Then, to develop springiness, take that fish
mixture and ‘dat’ it – that it, continuously slam it all down against the bowl twenty times
or so to develop springiness. And with that, the fishballs are ready to
form and cook. So now, the fun part. Set up a pot of water, and wet a spoon. Then squeeze out a ball-sized bit of the fish
paste – this’ll likely take a number of squeezes at first to get something good and
even… then grab it with the spoon, and toss in the water. Don’t worry if you find yourself squeezing
a number of times to get something workable, even fishball professionals need to squeeze
at least twice. Then once all your fishballs are done, put
those all over a medium flame and bring their poaching liquid up to temperature. Keep a close eye, and an accurate thermometer
handy, because our goal here’s to get it up to around 40 centigrade or so. At that point, drop the flame to the lowest
heat your stove’ll go, and let it poach at around 40 to 50 centigrade for 30 minutes. After that time, the fishballs should have
formed to the point where they can roll on a spoon if you take them out. Then get that all up to a boil, and the fishballs
are good to go once you see them floating. So then take them out, toss in an ice bath,
and at this point either use them or more realistically store in the freezer. So right. There’s really not that much to the two
dishes that we’ll use those with. If you watched our Hong Kong curry video last
week the plate on the left should be immediately recognizable – we’ll be using the same
mix of aromatics together with the same homemade Hong Kong-style curry paste. Then for the soup it’s really super absurdly
simple… no stock base, the only thing you’ll need handy is a bit of zicai which’s a seaweed
that you might also see sold as gim, laver, or raw nori… and some deep fried garlic
crisps, which’re also used in Thai cooking but in a pinch could also just be made at
home. We’ll start with the curry fishballs though,
and to start with those we’ve first got to do a bit of deep-frying. So in a wok with a couple cups of oil, get
that up to about 175 centigrade and drop in your fishballs. We decided to go with ten fishballs for this
portion. These are generally fried in order to firm
up the exterior of the meatball, but you can skip this if you’re feeling lazy. Fry those for about a minute until they’re
really ever so slightly lightly golden and… take them out. For the curry then, first drizzle a touch
of oil to a pot and go in with half of a red onion. Fry for about four minutes over a medium low
flame, then toss in four cloves of garlic and two shallots both roughly chopped. Another minute, then toss in two inches of
ginger and the white portion of two lemongrass stalks, both smashed. Another fry, then go in with two tablespoons
of your Hong Kong-style curry paste together with an optional teaspoon of turmeric for
color. Quick fry, then go in with a half a liter
of water. Quick note that all those aromatics are optional…
many vendors use solely curry paste, but we enjoyed the complexity they added. So then get that up to a boil, toss in your
fishballs, season with two teaspoons salt and four teaspoons sugar and let that simmer
over a low flame for thirty minutes. Then after that time, serve however you feel
like, but on a bamboo skewer certainly wouldn’t be out of place for that street fishball vibe. So now for the soup. Dead easy, first add one gram of seaweed to
about 350 milliliters of boiling water. Let that boil for about 30 seconds, then break
it apart, and add in your fishballs – here we used six. Let that boil until the fishball’s floating…
about a minute… then season with a quarter teaspoon salt, a quarter teaspoon sugar, and
an optional but recommended sprinkle of MSG. Then nestle in some romaine lettuce, sprinkle
on a handful of chopped scallion, about a teaspoon of the deep fried garlic, and a good
drizzle or half teaspoon or so of toasted sesame oil. And… that’s honestly it – a simple, and
perhaps surprisingly satisfying, fishball soup. So we did the Chaoshan style fish which uses
saltwater fish because that’s what they use in the curry fishballs in Hong Kong. While in other parts of China freshwater fish
is what people usually go to… uh for example in Guangdong [sic] here, Lingyu [mud carp]
is the classic one. And in Jiangzhe Shanghai area Qingyu is usually
what people would like to use… and the fishballs up there got a very different texture. It’s very pillowy and soft, and in the future
of course we’d want to show you how to make that, too. So check out the Reddit link in the description
box for a detailed recipe, a big thank you for everyone that’s supporting us on Patreon,
and of course… subscribe for more Chinese cooking videos.

35 comments on “How to Make Fish Balls (鱼蛋)

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us! I've only had fishballs fried, so I'm looking forward to make the other ways of eating them!

  2. I literally just made fish ball and tofu curry. Didn't make the fish balls though because I'm lazy and poor! Great video!

  3. 1. Ok, so fish varieties. Common fish that’re used for surimi are: Alaskan Pollock (IIRC the most common one, known for its gel-forming ability), Lizardfish, Cod, Blue Whiting, Jack Mackerel, Red Snapper, Tilapia, and Milkfish. As I said in the video, I believe any of those should also do the trick. I’m not the most versed in Japanese food, so someone in the know feel free to add/correct any of that list. I’m guessing Cod might be the most available abroad?

    2. I was pounding my head against a wall for a while because… I’m really not sure why Mackerel actually works here. Like, take a look at [this table]( – for fishball, and fish pastes generally, you’re looking for a fish that’s high in myosin – the protein that helps everything gel together. And if you look at many of the high myosin fish, you generally get a who’s who of stuff to make fishballs with: Snapper, Squid, Shark, Mutsu, etc. But then little old Mackerel there? Low myosin, fatty… basically goes against my entire understanding of meat pastes. We tried some other species – bream, notably – that just didn’t come together well. So why does Mackerel work? I’m still unsure, if anyone can point me to the right direction here…

    3. Important bit! Suppose you try working with, I dunno, Cod. You follow our recipe and it’s… just not coming together. You can still save your fishball! Toss an egg white or two in the mix – that’ll provide the missing myosin to get the job done.

    4. It might surprise you to know that Hong Kong has different sorts of fishballs than much of the rest of the PRD. After all, isn’t Hong Kong like Cantonese central? I mean… yeah sure, basically. But the food of the city has a pretty palpable Chaoshan (Teochew) influence that you can see in the fishballs, the way brisket’s cut… etc etc. While I don’t think the food in HK is different enough from the rest of the PRD to be labeled its own ‘cuisine’ (especially because there’s ton of back and forth – HK-originating dishes that spread to the mainland and visa versa), I personally think of it as its own ‘style’ of Cantonese food if that makes any sense?

    5. Cantonese food is totally one of those cuisines in China where the more you use your magnifying glass, the more granular things become. Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shunde, Zhongshan, Zhaoqing, Dongjiang, Macao, Taishan… all these places have their own local specialties. Sometimes we get questions whether we’ll ever “run out of dishes” for the channel. That risk is precisely zero: we could probably do one video a week for the rest of our lives doing just the Pearl River Delta and still die of old age having just barely scratched the surface. There’s… so much left to explore.

    6. I’m not trying to do a Chef John impression with the narration, promise. It’s just that sometimes with a longer video I end up a bit overly rhythmic, and there was an odd point here or there that I over emphasized. So yeah, I’ll try to tone it down next week.

    Quick reminder that for some reason, YouTube’s stopped giving my notifications for comments – in order to see all the new comments, I need to go through our analytics page (something I try to avoid… seeing realtime up-to-date view counts ain’t good for the mental health). We still get back to some comments but you want to ask us a question or something, include “@ChineseCookingDemystified” in your comment – then I’ll see it. Or obviously feel free to hit me up on Reddit.

  4. Very interesting video. Here in the Bay Area, they sell dace fish paste, which my wife uses to make tod mun pla. I think I may try it to make these fish balls.. it would be nice to compare to the frozen ones. I have one more question about your salt. You often call for a teaspoon, half teaspoon, etc. What kind of salt do you all use… Because for example 1/2 teaspoon of table salt contains about as much salt as a whole teaspoon of kosher salt.. The kosher salt grains are bigger and take up more room. But I know too that salt varies from country to country. So would you say the salt you use is more akin to table salt.. or bigger flakes?

  5. I'm curious, how does this compare with ready made fish balls from the store? Is this process actually worth it, or do most people just buy it ready made?

  6. Amazing video about a food I absolutely dislike. (I can never make it where the "fishy" flavour isn't strong unless it's cod, but then I'm making fish & chips.)

    Side note … 7:47 PUPPERS!!!

  7. I want to try your method for one good reason ..(well..I love to try new techniques) the reason? I have always felt dubious about what went into commercial fish balls.

  8. Fishballs are nice, but I'm all about them beef ball skewers, especially in curry… and maybe some tripe as well.

  9. In indonesia, there's almost exactly the same dish called bakso/baso but instead of using fish, it uses beef instead and the presentation is exactly the same as the fish soup including the proses on creating the fishball…….

    i've heard that it's originated from china and brought here by the chinese but this is the first time i saw the chinese version….

    keep up the good work!

  10. Romain Lettuce in a soup?! Never occurred to me it could work! I have a bunch of leftover from salad lying around right now; have to try it then, I guess.

  11. The clear fish ball soup was my cheap snack secret weapon when I was a student!! It was sold for only 6 RMB at one of the ubiquitous Shaxian Xiaochi shops. Looked exactly like what you cooked up – except the meatballs had a tiny piece of fatty, salty pork filling. I always thought the process must be highly industrial and there is no way to make these at home, but this video changed everything! 🙂 Very excited to try!! Thanks guys, plus I'm loving how the new place looks on camera. Bonus points for awesome dog.

  12. I'm so going to permanently stay with store-bought after seeing this. My wrist ache is returning just watching this … Warning people not to do it is as much a help/service as teaching people how to do it 🙂

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