Handmade Fishballs In Noodle Soup. Photos: Tan Kia Yin
By: Tan Kia Yin
Nothing beats the taste of home-made fresh fishballs: Springy, bouncy and briny using Spanish mackerel’s (ikan tengiri) delicate meat. Kia Yin picked up the finer points of fishball-making from her mother-in-law and she finds the whole process, particularly shaping fishballs, pretty fun.
Total Time: 1 hour
A: Fish Paste
500-600g Spanish mackeral fish fillet (ikan tengiri)
1 tsp salt mixed with 125 ml water
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornflour
1-2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp salt or anchovy (ikan bilis) powder
B: Soup Stock
2 litres chicken stock, preferably homemade
Handful of anchovies (ikan bilis)
2 chicken legs, skinned and visible fat removed
3-4 stalks spring onion, white part only
4 slices ginger
3-4 stalks coriander, root and stalks only
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
Fish bones, after deboning
100g prawn heads, crushed
400g thick vermicelli, blanched in 2 litres boiling water until cooked;
1 tablespoon fried shallot oil
1 tablespoon fried garlic oil
2 stalks spring onion, sliced
4 stalks coriander, chopped
Leafy vegetables – spinach, bak choy, blanched
2 eggs, made into omelette and shredded
4 chilli padi or 2 red chillies, sliced
Light soy sauce
1. Cook chicken stock first. Bring water in a big saucepan to a rolling boil over high heat. Add B ingredients and then lower heat to medium. Let it simmer while fishballs are being prepared. Add more water if soup reduces. After 1 hour, turn the heat off. Remove chicken and shred it. Set aside meat. Discard bones.
2. Fillet fish – place fish, skin side down on chopping board. Holding one end of fish firmly, use a metal spoon to scrape meat in one direction. Add fish skin to soup stock.
3. Using a cleaver, mince fish meat to a fine texture with a chopping motion. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
4. Lift up fish meat and slap or throw it repeatedly against the sides of the bowl – up to about 100 repetitions to get a springy or bouncy texture. It will gradually transform from sticky and grainy and into a smooth and glossy fish paste. When fish paste starts to sticks to fingers, add water bit by bit and continue the process.
5. Add in egg white and seasoning, mix well.
6. Fill up a large mixing bowl with water with 1 teaspoon salt added. To shape fishballs, pick up a fistful of fish paste in one hand. Close up your hand around the paste, gently massaging it while squeezing the paste between the crook of your thumb and index finger until a ball pops up. Using a Chinese soup spoon, scoop up fishballs and drop them into the prepared bowl of water. Repeat until the fish paste has been made into fishballs, approximately 18-20 balls.
7. To cook fishballs, bring 2 litres water in a medium saucepan to a boil, then reduce heat. Drop fishballs one by one gently into saucepan to cook. There should be plenty of room for fishballs to bob around in the water. When they float to the top, they are cooked. Transfer cooked fishballs into a large bowl with water.
8. To serve, add vegetables, chicken and 5-6 fishballs over noodles. Ladle soup into each bowl until ¾ full. Drizzle with shallot and/or garlic oil. Sprinkle with spring onions and coriander. Top with shredded omelette.
9. Serve with cut chilli in soy sauce.
TIP: Fish paste is a versatile ingredient; it can also be used to make yong taufu (beancurd stuffed with fish paste), ngo hiang (5-spiced meat roll), wanton or otak-otak.
TECHNIQUE: When cooking fishballs, make sure water has not reached boiling point of 100°C. Look for tiny bubbles forming on the side of the saucepan, then drop fishballs into soup. Reduce to low heat. This ensures fishballs retain their shape while cooking.
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