Singapore Fishball Recipe: Authentic Traditional Handmade Fishballs!

Fishballs

This Fishball recipe ranks up there with my Bean Curd, Hainanese Pork Satay, and Roti Prata recipes.  It is one of those dishes whose recipe is not easily found on the internet or in any books and resides mainly in the minds of the artisans.  As with the other recipes that I mentioned above, it took me years before I finally managed to re-create the dish at home. This is the kind of recipe I love to publish so that it can be properly documented for posterity!

Of course, you might be wondering what makes this recipe so unique.  Well, the method of making these fishballs is quite different from those that I have seen online.  You only need three ingredients to make it.  Fish, salt, and water.  MSG is optional.  An inordinate amount of salt is added during the kneading stage which causes the fish meat the take on that bouncy, tender texture we all love.  You might balk at the amount of salt at first, but don’t worry.  Once the balls are molded, they are soaked in water for 2-3 hours for the excess salt to leech out.  At the end of the soaking time, the amount of salt in both the fishball and water would be just nice.  The fishball and soaking water are then cooked together to make the perfect bowl of fishball soup.

Fishballs 2
Handmade fishballs after soaking for 2-3 hours

Ingredients

1.  Yellowtail fusilier meat 1000mg*
2.  Water 800ml (80%)
3.  Salt 58g
4.  MSG 5g
5.  Soaking water 4000ml

*Scale according to the amount of fish meat used

Note:  The total amount of water and fish meat = 4800ml + 1000mg = 5800mg which means that the percentage of salt in the final product is only 58/5800 or 1%.

Method

1.  Fillet yellowtail and scrape off the meat with a metal spoon.
2.  Pass the fish meat through the meat grinder three times to finely mince it.  Alternatively, you can hand chop it or use a food processor to process it till it is a fine paste.
3.  Prepare ice water and measure out the proper amount according to the amount of fish paste.
4.  Using the flat beater, start kneading the fish meat
5.  Add 1/4 of the water and knead till water is fully absorbed
6.  Add 1/4 of the salt and MSG and knead till the meat is bouncy
7.  Repeat steps 5 and 6 and knead till the fish paste is bouncy and shiny
8.  Mold the fish paste into balls and allow to soak in water for 3-4 hours
9.  Cook the fish balls in the soaking water till it floats.  Garnish with shallot oil, scallions, coriander and white pepper.


Details and Tips

Yellowtail
Yellowtail Fusilier (“Hang Zhi Her” in Teochew or “Huang Wei Yu” 黄尾鱼)

The key to the recipe is to use the right fish.  I haven’t tried using other fish for this recipe because all the experts I have talked to said that you can only use yellowtail fusilier for this recipe.  Other fish will not have the same texture.  Spotted mackerel and wolf herring have been used locally to make fish balls, but the recipe may be a little different.  You can buy yellowtail fusilier at the wet market.  Ask for “hang zhi her“(tapioca fish in Teochew) or “huang wei yu” (yellowtail fish in Mandarin).  It goes without saying that the fresher the fish, the better.

Filleting

After filleting the fish, use a metal spoon to scrape off the fish meat.  Keep the bones for soup.  To make a really robust fish soup, dust the fish bones with corn flour and deep fry till golden brown, then throw the bones into the soup and boil till the soup is nice and milky.

Scraping

The fish should have a nice fresh fish flavour.  If it smells fishy, and the meat is soft. it means your fish is not fresh.

Mincing

Using the side of a cleaver, press the fish onto the board firmly to turn it into a paste, then chop till very fine.

Mincing 2

Or you can pass it through a meat grinder.   I always put the meat grinder in the freezer for at least half an hour to keep it cold.  It is important to keep the fish paste as cold as possible during the kneading process.

Kneading

Knead the fish meat using the flat beater and add the water and salt alternately till it turns into a bouncy paste.  If you don’t have a mixer, you can use your hands to beat it.  But make sure the paste is cold.

Molding1

Wet your hands with cold water and mold the paste into a ball.  This takes quite a bit of practice.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t all come out the same size and shape.  The experts have many years of practice to perfect the skill!

Molding2

Scoop out the fish paste using a porcelain spoon and drop into soaking water.  If it is a bit out of shape, you can pick up the fishball and gently roll it with your hands.

Soaking

Leave the fishballs to soak in the water for 3-4 hours until they are firmed up.  To store, remove the balls from the water and place them in the container.  The water is used to make the soup, so don’t throw it away!  It should be able to last for a few days in the fridge but don’t freeze the fishballs!

Kitchen equipment used:

KitchenAid 5.7L Bowl Lift Stand Mixer
KitchenAid Metal Food Grinder attachment
KitchenAid K400 Variable Speed Blender

Acknowledgment

I learned this dish from a sifu (master) who is available for consultation for any food establishment.  Aside from fishballs, he can do a lot of other stuff.  Please email me if you need his contact.

Disclosure
The video was filmed during a live Facebook event sponsored by KitchenAid.

This post may include affiliate marketing links, which at no extra cost to you, we may make a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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Congratulations, i learned making fishballs from my chinese grandfathers both siblings of my grandmother. You are right the best fish to use is the yellow tail we call it Dalagang Bukid Fish in the Philippines, it has 2 variety the yellow tail which is falt and the pinkish grey variety which is rounder. We use also the Tangigue (Spanish Mackerel or King Fish) and Lapulapu (Grouper). Tangigue and Lapulapu are expensive, Dalagang Bukid is cheaper. All give a pasty consistency when mashed. Before cutting the fish it is pounded so it can be easily scrape by a spoon. My grandfather will add minced carrots, scallion and shallots. He also put minced ginger on the soaking water just for flavor.

Thank you for this recipe! I grew up in Singapore, but live overseas now and crave this fishball terribly. If yellowtail fusilier is unavailable, what other types of fish would you suggest? I appreciate you!

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