Monday, October 12, 2009
Fish balls have always intrigued me. I have always been skeptical of recipes which tell you to dump fish meat into a food processor and then to shape the processed paste into balls. And you're supposed to get fish balls.
Simply because I've heard stories and seen recipes where fish meat is chopped up on a board with a mean looking cleaver until it becomes mush, then pounded in a pestle and mortar and then given a good beating by a pair of biceps. All the rigmarole one has to go through for bouncy, springy fish balls that deliver you a good bite.
Then I think of commercially made fish balls and I wonder at all those biceps hard at work in the din of the factory? The sweat of highly able-armed persons mixed with grunts, thin, white cotton T-shirts clinging to bodies and sucking up the sweat? And then those wet and glistening arms dripping with sweat? The whole place dimly lit in a far flung humid and tropical corner of nowhere? Add mosquito infested for some drama. And a murderer skulking by? Gosh. It must be quite a sight. If indeed that is how they make fish balls for commerce.
But I chose to brush those stories off as half truths since I was living in the 21st century. So I made fish balls. In my kitchen. In my food processor. Without biceps. No sweat.
I managed to make fish balls. Clean, full-flavoured and with enough bite to make me kind of happy. I squeezed one between my thumb and forefinger as I've seen some people do as a test for bounciness. It was there. Kind of. I bounced one into a bowl and it jumped right out. Need I say more?
It was bouncy enough for me. And had enough of a bite as far as I was concerned. And all without the lye water.That dreaded toxic substance used in commercial fish balls to add that ever sought after bounce and bite.
Terri from hunger hunger, my invaluable repository for Chinese cooking, guided me along. Bounciness, she says, is all in the fish, the whole fish and nothing but the fish. No lye water needed if you use the right kind of fish. And she named a few, well 3 to be precise.
1. The spotted mackeral
2. 'Tofu' fish with the yellow tail and
3. Yellow tail barracuda
The 'tofu' fish Terri says makes the smoothest and sweetest fish balls. Terri says she can never make fish balls as good as her maid, Vera, does. She wished me luck. I needed it.
So I went fishing and I got 3 'tofu' fish with yellow tails at the night market, all for 11 ringgit. Cheap! Cheap?
I had the surprised fish monger fillet them for me and all I did when I went home was to slice the fillet down the middle and sliced off the tiny spikes of bones that are embedded and that run down the middle. Then I scraped the flesh off the skin with a metal spoon. Easy. I made sure I cleaned the scales off thoroughly first of course.
A mackeral would have been a lot easier to deal with, I would imagine, but it would have cost me much more.
So that's the story of how I made fish balls. And from now on I hope to live happily ever after in my fish bowl...uhm....fish ball world.
The recipe......................uh oh... my son swallowed up half the fish balls before I could count them. But I think I got between 30 and 35 fish balls. It all depends on how small or big you make them of course.
300 gm fish meat of one of the 3 fish mentioned above
2 T ice cold water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oil
1 tsp cornflour
Place fish meat in a food processor and start to whizz.When the meat becomes a paste add in 1 tablespoon of cold water, reserving the other tablespoon in a bowl. Continue to process until the meat is a fine and smooth paste. Remove from the machine and place the fish paste in a medium bowl.
In the bowl with water add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the fish paste and using a fork stir vigorously until the two combine and come together into a firm and shiny mass.
Place in the freezer for about 10 or 15 minutes.
Using 2 teaspoons pick up a blob of the paste and shape by moving the blob from one teaspoon to the other until it is compact and smooth. (you could grab a whole mass of the paste in the palm of your hand, make a fist, squeeze and release a blob through your thumb and forefinger and scoop off the blob with a spoon).
Place the shaped fish balls in a bowl of water and ice or just on a medium stainless steel tray in one layer. Carry on until the paste is finished. If you used iced water you can skip the 'place in the freezer for 15 minutes'. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Take out the raw fish balls and drop them in one at a time until the bottom of the pot is covered with a layer of fish balls. Do not let water to boil vigorously....only a gentle simmer until the balls float to the surface by which time you can scoop them of with a spider web. Do the same for the rest of the raw fish balls.
Done. Let cool. Use for a noodle soup like here or in stir fried noodles, rice etc.