I have a few recipes already lined up for this week, but I couldn’t wait to share with you these homemade fish balls with spicy fish ball sauce. Fish balls, you guys! Homemade fish balls just like the ones Manong with the push cart sells for a peso a piece!
Fish balls are a popular street food in the Philippines and are often sold by street vendors in mobile wooden carts at almost every street corner. The balls, primarily made from fish meat ground to a paste, are deep-fried until golden and then skewered in wooden sticks and dipped in a variety of sauces ranging from sweet, spicy to sweet and sour.
These fish balls are so ingrained in the Philippine culture; every Filipino has for sure some sort of “fish ball” childhood memory growing up.
I haven’t had fish balls, or at least not the ones sold on the streets, in decades so when I went home for a vacation two years ago, one of my aunts brought a few skewers as pasalubong. Ugh, to be so excited and only to be sorely disappointed! The soft, meaty fish balls I remember fondly from my youth were reduced to nothing more but flat disks filled with air!
That’s inflation for you, folks! The price of fish balls hasn’t gone up much over the years, and at one peso, they’re still relatively cheap. Unfortunately, to make up for the rising manufacturing costs, the balls are now more extenders than fish.
Part of the joy of eating street food is the joy of eating street food. There’s just something about agilely poking your choice of fish balls with a wooden stick as they swim and puff up in sizzling oil and then fighting over who dips first in the specialty sauces that makes eating fish balls on the street so much fun!
But, guys, making your own can be a delicious experience, too! There’s just something about rolling your own fish concoction into balls and then watching them swim and puff up in sizzling oil that makes homemade fish balls just as much fun!
Seriously, I was so thrilled about successfully replicating the fish balls at home, the very first video I uploaded on Youtube after many years of planning my own cooking channel is a badly-lit video of them frying in hot oil! Forgive the poor quality of the video, I just want you to be as pumped up about these homemade fish balls as I am. 🙂
- I used pollock to make my fish balls, but any fleshy type such as mackerel should work as well. Just remember that the quality of your end product depends on the quality of the fish you start with so use the freshest fish possible.
- After I scraped the flesh from the bones, I ground it in a food processor into a thick paste. You can also do this by pounding the flesh with the back of your knife till you reach the right consistency. The recipe calls for 1 pound of fish flesh so you’ll need about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds whole fish.
- The trick to the fish balls’ soft, springy texture is slapping and pounding the fish paste over and over until it turns from sticky and grainy to smooth and glossy. You lift the fish paste from the bowl and then slap it back into the bowl repeatedly until it’s smooth and shiny and begins to pull back from the sides of the bowl. From my experience, it took about a hundred times or so of lifting and slapping before the paste was ready for shaping into balls. If you want to save yourself the work (out), transfer the fish paste in a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat paste for about 10 to 11 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the bowl.
- The traditional way of shaping the fish balls is to squeeze the fish paste in between the crook of your thumb and index finger and use a spoon to scoop the balls into a pot of boiling water to finish cooking. I am not adept to that style yet, so I just portioned the fish paste by tablespoonful and rolled them into balls between the palm of my hands.
- As a final step, bring a pot of water into a boil and then gently drop fish balls to cook for about 1 to 2 minute or until they float to the top. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the water and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool. You can then transfer them into resealable bags for future use or use immediately in soups or your favorite recipes.
Above are my homemade fish balls waiting to be deep-fried and enjoyed with a sweet and spicy fish ball sauce.
As you can see, I need a bit more practice on my fish ball shaping skills as they could be a tad prettier. But irregular though they may be, I find them more appealing and tasty than the perfect rounds of store-bought. Fruits of my labor, you know. 🙂
You can use this recipe as a base for whatever seafood balls you like. Adding shrimp or crab meat are just some of the easy ways to play around with flavor varieties.
Give them a try and let me know what you think. If you make this or any of Kawaling Pinoy recipes, be sure to snap a photo and tag @kawalingpinoy on Instagram or hashtag it #kawalingpinoy as I’d love to see what you’re cooking. Also, I have a contest idea brewing in my head which will most probably involve sharing the dishes you’ve made using Kawaling Pinoy recipes on social media. It’s always good to get a head start. 😉
Homemade Fish Balls with Spicy Fish Ball Sauce
- 1 pound fish flesh
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup cold water
For the Sweet and Spicy Fish Ball Sauce
- 2 cups water
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 head garlic peeled and minced
- 3 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 4 to 5 Thai chili peppers stemmed and chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- In a food processor, grind the flesh into a thick paste. Transfer into a bowl.
- In a bowl, combine the fish paste, salt, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Alternatively, pound the fish flesh with the back of a knife until it turns to thick paste.
- Using hands, stir the mixture until well combined and then shape into a big ball. Lift from the bowl and then slap back into the bowl. Repeat for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the fish paste is smooth and shiny and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Alternatively, transfer fish paste into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
- Using a tablespoon, portion the fish paste and shape into balls by rolling between the palm of your hands.
- In a pot over medium heat, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Gently drop fish balls into boiling water and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until they begin to float on top. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the fish balls from water and allow to cool.
- In a wide pan, heat about 2 inches of oil. Add fish balls and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and puffed. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Serve with the sweet and spicy fish ball sauce.
For the Sweet and Spicy Fish Ball Sauce
- In a saucepot, combine water, soy sauce, garlic, shallots, chili pepper, brown sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Stir well until well blended and smooth.
- Bring to a boil, stirring regularly, for about 3 to 5 minute or until thickened. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.