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How To Make Fish Balls

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Easy to prepare fish balls seasoned with black pepper and garlic. Use in a variety of dishes (like noodle soups and hot pot dinners). Bouncy and savory! These fish balls are also perfect for snacking ^_^

Boiled Fish Balls, ready to eat.
Just-boiled Fish Balls, ready for snacking or use in other dishes.

Fish Balls

Fish Balls, just boiled and served hot, are versatile and delicious!

Growing up in Hawaii, we ate fish balls at least once or twice a week. They were were never the *star* of the show, but a bowl of noodle soup and gon lon mein would feel incomplete without them.

You can purchase pre-made fish balls at all Asian markets (check the freezer section). The markets have an impressive variety of frozen fish balls. They range in price and quality. Some fancy ones even include a center filling of items like fish roe, minced pork, or salted egg yolk custard...so cool!

Or you can make your own at home ^_^

Ingredients for Fish Balls: fish paste, garlic, and black pepper.
Fish paste, garlic, and black pepper.

Why This Recipe Works

This recipe is straightforward and simple.

Just mix fish paste with minced garlic and black pepper. Then form into little balls. Boil and eat! You can't go wrong.

This simple recipe for fish balls also goes by a few other names including:

  • Chinese fish balls
  • Hong Kong fish balls

You might need to practice a little to master the "technique" of forming and shaping the fish balls.

My grandma is super good at this. She's been doing it for over 50 years. She whips up multiple batches every time she visits. We keep them in the fridge and ration them out carefully, awaiting her next visit ^_^

Note from a local: it's ok if you're fish balls aren't precisely formed orbs. Mine certainly are not. Don't get hung up on trying to shape the *perfect* balls your first few times. They will still taste the same (which is delicious).

Ingredients for Fish Balls: fish paste, garlic, and black pepper.
Ingredients for Fish Balls

Ingredients

  • Fish Paste - You can buy fish paste from most large Chinese markets (they will be in the refrigerated or freezer section). In Honolulu, I like to visit the fresh fish vendors at Oahu Market. Several of them sell fish paste by the pound. There's one vendor in particular that my grandma prefers (she's been buying fish paste from them since 1980!). I'll take a photo/jot down the name of the vendor next time I go in case you want to visit the same vendor ^_^
  • Garlic - Lots and lots of minced garlic.
  • Black Pepper - Plain ground black pepper is good. We get the big container of ground black pepper from Costco Hawaii because we go through so much of it.
Collage of How To Make Fish Balls steps: combine ingredients, stir to mix, form, the fish balls, and boil.
Collage of How To Make Fish Balls steps: combine ingredients, stir to mix, form, the fish balls, and boil.

Step by Step Directions

In a bowl, mix together the fish paste, minced garlic, and black pepper. Set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.

Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of the fish paste and form into a ball.

Tip: This is how my grandma shapes the fish balls, she uses a very traditional method for hand shaped fish balls:

Use your left hand to scoop up a handful of the fish paste. Use your bottom three fingers to push the fish paste up and through a small circle formed by your thumb and index finger. A fish paste "ball" should pop up through the circle.

Loosen your grip to let the loosely formed fish ball drop down a little (about 30%). And then quickly tighten your grip to push the fish ball back up again. Repeat 1-2 times more.

It's this particular step of reforming/reshaping/tightening the fish ball that gives fish balls it's signature bouncy texture. The more bounce, the better!

Then use a spoon to slide and remove the fish ball from your left hand. Gently drop the fish ball into the boiling water and let it cook. The fish balls are finished cooking when they float to the top (about 2 minutes, depending on the size of your fish ball).

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you've used up all the fish paste.

The fish balls are ready to eat! You can add them to noodle soups, eat it alongside gon lon mein and wontons, or even just snack on them plain (so delicious) ^_^

Tip: Save the broth in which you've cooked the fish balls. The broth has lots of flavors and can be used as a base for many other recipes.

Boiled Fish Balls, ready to eat.
Bowl of just-boiled Fish Balls, still hot ^_^

FAQs and Tips

How long do these fish balls keep?

You may store the mixed and uncooked fish ball paste in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Once the fish balls are boiled and fully cooked, they can be kept in the fridge for 4-5 days (ready to be added into any dish you want to eat it with!)

Can you freeze the fish balls?

Yes, you can freeze boiled and fully cooked fish balls. Place them into a zip top bag (make sure to press all the air out of the bag), seal and store in the freezer. Use the fish balls as needed.

How to use Chinese fish balls?

Chinese fish balls are so versatile and can be used in many dishes! The most common uses are for:
- Add to a bowl of noodle soup. Fish balls are a popular noodle soup ingredient across many Asian cultures. From a classic bowl of wonton mein to a hot bowl of laksa and even instant ramen and saimin...fish balls go well with all types of noodle soups.
- Add it to a bowl of plain soup. I love plain hot soup for breakfast with a few fish ball throw in (and maybe a sprinkle of white pepper on top!)
- Eat it with dry tossed noodles (aka our favorite gon lon mein)
- Add it to your hot pot or shabu shabu dinner
- Snack on the fish balls plain, sooo onolicious!

How To Make Fish Balls

See below and enjoy ^_^

Yield: 1 pound of fish balls

How To Make Fish Balls

Boiled Fish Balls, ready to eat.

Easy to prepare fish balls seasoned with black pepper and garlic. Use in a variety of dishes (like noodle soups and hot pot dinners). Bouncy and savory! These fish balls are also perfect for snacking ^_^

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix together the fish paste, minced garlic, and black pepper. Set aside.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
  3. Use your left hand to scoop up a handful of fish paste and form the fish balls (squeeze the paste through a circle formed by your thumb and index finger). See note below for specifics on how to do this.
  4. Once the ball has been formed, use a spoon to scrape off and remove the fish ball from your left hand. Gently drop the fish ball into the boiling water and let it cook. The fish balls are finished cooking when they float to the top (about 2 minutes, depending on the size of your fish ball).
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you've used up all the fish paste.
  6. The fish balls are ready to eat! You can add them to noodle soups, eat it alongside gon lon mein and wontons, or even just snack on them plain (so delicious) ^_^

Notes

Traditional way of forming fish balls:

Use your left hand to scoop up a handful of the fish paste. Use your bottom three fingers to push the fish paste up and through a small circle formed by your thumb and index finger. A fish paste "ball" should pop up through the circle.

Loosen your grip to let the loosely formed fish ball drop a little (like 30% of the way down). Quickly tighten your grip to push the fish ball back up again. Repeat this 1-2 times.

It's this particular step of reforming/reshaping/tightening the fish ball that gives fish balls that signature bouncy texture. The more bounce, the better!

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