Flounder fish balls (Quenelle, take 2)

I tried to make French quenelle from the Gourmet cookbook a while ago, but they came out really unsatisfactory after a lot of work. The Chinese style fishballs we can buy from the market usually contain quite a bit of starch, some pork lard, and eggs. The texture is that of bounciness and "Q" -- a term we use in Taiwan to describe an elastic, toothsome crunch. I suppose this is the style from the south, i.e. Fu-zhou style (福州). But I have also heard that the Shanghainese style can be very different -- tender, fluffy, and fragile. This is what I wanted to achieve.

The recipes for typical quenelles or fish balls usually call for fish flesh, some starch, and egg white. The egg white provides albumin proteins that act as a binder to hold everything together. A common mistake of making fish balls is to process the meat for too long in a food processor. The ground mixture can become too hot from the blades and their proteins get "cooked" -- i.e. the proteins are fully denatured and set. If this happens, the fish balls will not be able to hold its shape. The egg white is added to ensure enough raw protein is present to perform this function. But I think the addition of egg white stiffens the fish balls. So when I made it, I only used fish and starch, but no egg whites. The result is really excellent.

Recipe: Fluffy and Tender Flounder Fish Balls 龍利魚丸

1 lb flounder filet with bones removed (weighed after bone removal)
2 Tbsp potato starch or tapioca starch
3 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine
3 Tbsp mirin
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground white pepper

1. Finely dice the fish filet. Place in a food processer and pulse to grind in small batches until just ground. Make sure the temperature does not rise during grinding.
2. Place the ground fish in a large bowl. Add the starch, salt and pepper and start to mix a wooden spoon clockwise. Mix until thin strands of fibers can be seen.
3. Add the liquids one tablespoon at a time. Mix clockwise after each edition until the liquid is fully absorbed. Place the mixture in the refrigerator.
4. Boil a large pot of water. Use two spoons to form ping-pong ball size meat balls and place them in the boiling water. When the fish ball float to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon. They are now cooked and can be placed in stews or soups.

Recipe: Fish ball noodle soup 魚丸羹麵

Fish Stock
Fried shallots
Chinese black vinegar
Dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in cold water for 30 min
Dried lily buds, soaked in colder water for 30 min
carrots, cut into thin match sticks
cooked meat balls
Salt and white pepper
Potato starch
Garlic, minced or through a garlic press
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Celery, roughly chopped
Chinese noodles

1. Slice the re-hydrated mushrooms into strips. Squeeze dry the lily buds
2. Bring the stock to a boil. Cook the mushrooms, carrots, and lily buds in the stock. Add fried shallots to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Thicken slightly with potato starch.
3. Add the fish balls and simmer for another 5 minutes until everything is warmed through. Add the raw garlic to the soup at the end.
4. Meanwhile, start another pot of boiling water to cook the noodles.
5. Place in each bowl the noodles, top with the soup. Sprinkle cilantro and celery bits.


Ming-Kuei said…
They look so yummy... totally worth trips from Philly to NYC in the near future.
Albertitto said…
come come! I'll make them for you~~

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