Bouncy meatballs! My good aunt, Kheng Cher, shared this recipe with me – her secret ingredient is to add the egg (you must stir in in one directions, she says) to make the fish ball puff up during frying. The skin then collapses to a chewy bite, while the meat inside remains bouncy.
Very few people really make this at home anymore since you can buy ready-made fish paste quite easily. But there’s nothing better than making your own fish paste, and tasting the sweetness of unadulterated fish balls.
Chef’s tip: A lot of TLC is needed to make the fish ball. First, it is preferred to chop the meat with a cleaver by hand than pulsing it in a food processor so that you can slowly get to the right consistency of paste. Also, make sure to slap the fish paste to a round, shiny, blob! This is the step that determines how bouncy the ball will be.
3 Tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ lb whole Spanish mackerel (yellowtail, haddock, pike, bluefish) yielding 1 lb flesh
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3 cups canola oil
Preparing the dipping sauce
1. Mix all dipping sauce ingredients together (chile, ketchup, garlic, ginger, lime juice, sugar and salt). Set aside.
Preparing the meatballs
2. Using the whole fish, starting from the tail end and working towards the head, slice off the top half of the fish flesh. Repeat with the other side of the fish. Using a spoon, scrape off any remaining fish meat from the bones. Place the fish fillet, skin side down over an inverted bowl and remove any bones with a tweezer. Place the fish fillet, still skin side down, on a cutting board and using a spoon, scrape out the fish flesh.
3. Place the fish on a cutting board and sprinkle on 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and cornstarch. Using the blunt side of the cleaver, chop the meat, while smashing/dragging the meat against the cutting board till it becomes a paste a shade lighter. (Or place the fish meat in a food processor and pulse about a dozen times till it becomes a paste a shade lighter)
4. In a small bowl, mix together the water and salt. Set aside.
5. Transfer the meat into the bowl drop in the egg and stir in one directions to incorporate the egg.
6. Wet your hands with the salt water and grab the fish mixture and slap the meat against the side of the bowl. Repeat until the fish comes together and forms a shiny and firm ball. Wet your hands continuously with the salt water as you work.
7. Using your hands, form small golf ball 1 inch size fish balls, coating it with the salt water as you work. Place the fish balls on a baking sheet.
Frying the fish ball
8. In wok, heat about 2 inches of oil. When it reaches 360°F, quickly pat dry each fish ball and drop it into the hot oil. Fry until it becomes a golden brown and the fish ball floats on top of the oil.
9. The fish ball will puff up during the frying but will cool and collapse when cooled. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.
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