Homemade Fish Balls are as fun to make as they are to eat! Soft and bouncy, they’re popular as street food with spicy fish ball sauce but just as delicious in soups or stir-fries.
Fish balls are popular street food in the Philippines and so ingrained in our food culture that every Filipino has, for sure, some “fishball” childhood memory growing up.
They are traditionally sold in mobile wooden carts by street vendors who peddle around town. The balls are deep-fried in hot oil until puffed and golden, skewered in wooden sticks, and then dipped in a variety of sauces ranging from sweet, spicy to sweet and sour.
Unfortunately, to meet rising manufacturing costs and still keep the price relatively cheap, the soft, meaty fish balls I remember fondly from my youth are now nothing more than flat disks filled with air. They’re made mostly of starch extenders and barely contain fish meat.
Fortunately, they’re easy to make at home; you’ll have a big batch to stock in the freezer for anytime cravings!
While they’re a great addition to soups and noodle stir-fries, the best way to enjoy these seafood balls, in my opinion, is deep-fried and golden. There’s just something about rolling your own fish concoction into rounds and watching them swim and puff up in sizzling oil that makes this homemade recipe so much fun.
And for street-style food experience right in your kitchen, skewer them in wooden sticks and dip in specialty sauces. There’s just something about a generous smothering of this sweet and sticky and spicy liquid gold that makes our favorite treat doubly delicious!
Manong’s 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 Thai chili peppers, stemmed and finely chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
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 minutes or until thickened. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.
Helpful Cooking Tips
- The recipe uses pollock, but any fleshy type such as mackerel, round scad, or tilapia should work as well. Remember that the quality of the end product depends on using the freshest fish possible.
- The recipe calls for 1 pound of fish flesh which is about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds whole fish with head and bones. Use the food processor to grind the flesh into a thick paste. Alternatively, use the back of a knife to pound the flesh to the right consistency.
- 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. 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. This will take roughly about 100 repetitions.
- Alternatively, 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. The easier method is to portion the fish paste by the tablespoonful and roll into balls between the palm of 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 minutes 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.
- You can use this recipe as a base for whatever seafood balls you like. Substitute shrimp, squid or crab meat for flavor varieties.