Fish balls are an extremely popular staple food in Southern China and Southeast Asia. They are usually made from fish finely processed into fish paste and then shaped into balls and cakes. Fish balls are highly versatile, they can be eaten as a main meal by itself, as an appetizer or snack and used as one of the main ingredients in soups and stir-fries. One of the most popular way of serving fish balls is in seaweed soup. Fish balls when eaten by themselves are normally deep fried, boiled or steamed. Popular ways of consuming fish balls are with noodles, made into skewers, added to curry and hot pots, used as fillings for Stuffed Tofu (Yong Tau Foo) and even served with rice. These various ways of serving fish balls are also popular street (hawker) food in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Types and Variations of Fish Balls
There are many variations of fish balls, some commonly used ingredients for stuffing fish balls are spring onion (shallots), garlic, onion, celery, pork, prawns and squid. One popular and traditional way of stuffing fish balls is with minced pork as fillings and they are specifically called “Fuzhou” fish balls. Typically, fish like redfish, cod, eels, yellow croaker and even spanish mackerel are used to make fish paste and then shaped into fish balls or fish cakes. Other firm skinless white fish fillets like sea perch, snapper, blue eye, bream or ling can also be used.
For my simple 4 ingredients gluten free fish balls recipe, I am using skinless and boneless redfish fillets combined with thinly sliced spring onion (shallots) and seasoned with ground white pepper and salt. The fish balls are then cooked and served with seaweed soup. This recipe is also dairy free, soy free, egg free and nut free. Another popular variation for this fish balls and seaweed soup is to add eggs stirred into the soup resulting in egg drop soup.
Health Benefits and Nutritional Values of Fish
The precise origin of fish balls is unknown but they have been a staple food in Chinese cuisine for an immensely long period of time and definitely created during historical China. Fish balls like all seafood are high in protein and low in fats and calories. They are also relatively low in carbohydrates with substantial sources of vitamins and minerals. Redfish is a low to medium priced fish and it is not only rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and also an excellent source of essential minerals and vitamins like potassium, phosphorus and vitamin B12. They are also a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin E.
Health benefits of red fish include: lower risks of cardiovascular diseases and strokes; reduce risks of inflammatory joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis; help improve blood circulation and decrease risks of blood clots like thrombosis; promote healthy eyesight and lower risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD); promote healthy skin; may reduce risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s and memory problems; provide protection against inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and may help prevent depression.
What is Seaweed?
Seaweed or sea vegetable has been an ingredient in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines since ancient times. Seaweed has been used as food, fertilizer and livestock feeds since many thousands of years. It belongs to the edible seaweed species of the red algae species Porphyra. Edible seaweed is mostly marine algae and not fresh water algae which contains toxin. It is commonly called nori in Japan, zicai in China and gim or kim in Korea. It is most frequently used as an ingredient in soups and to wrap sushi or onigiri, for rice balls and as a garnish or condiment for several types of noodles and other dishes. Seaweeds are also grown for the extraction of polysaccharides such as agar agar (vegan gelatin). They play an important role in ancient Chinese and Japanese medicines to help combat ailments and diseases.
Health Benefits and Nutritional Values of Seaweed
Seaweeds are now hailed as the new superfood as they are not only a rich source of antioxidant, high in fiber and protein but low in calories as well. In addition, they are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, folate/folic acid (vitamin B9), magnesium, manganese, iodine, sodium, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. They are also a good source of vitamins A, vitamin C, vitamin E, B group of vitamins, phosphorus, choline, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Health benefits of seaweed include: support healthy digestive system; lower risks of cardiovascular diseases; help detox the body; strengthen immune system; aid in weight loss; may reduce risks of cancer and lower risks of diabetes. In addition, seaweed is a superb source of iodine and it is a vital mineral for healthy thyroid function. Other good sources of iodine are seafood especially fish and shell fish like oysters, dairy products, eggs and iodised salt. Although iodine is essential for thyroid function, too little or too much will cause thyroid problems. Note that certain kinds of seaweed like kelp (brown algae), kombu (brown algae) and dulse (red algae) can comprise of very high amount of iodine and should not be eaten in large quantity or too regularly. Whereas spirulina (blue-green algae) contain only a very small amount of iodine and should not be the only source of iodine in the diet.
Homemade Fish Balls with Seaweed Soup
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil placed in a small bowl
- 1 kg 2.2Ib/35.3oz skinless redfish fillets, bones removed and cut into half. You can use any other firm skinless white fish fillets (sea perch, snapper, blue eye, bream or ling)
- 6 spring onions shallots thinly sliced into 1cm lengthwise
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 4 dried seaweed nori sheets (10g/0.35oz), cut into 2 inch pieces
For the Soup Base:
- 50 g 1.76oz dried anchovies
- 3 litres water
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the Garnish:
- 2 spring onions shallots thinly sliced into 1cm lengthwise
For the soup base:
- Place 3 litres of water and the dried anchovies into a large covered pot. Bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Remove and discard all the anchovies.
For the fish balls:
- Place the redfish fillets into a food processor, and blend until you get a thick puree fish paste.
- Transfer to a large bowl and add in all the spring onions, ground white pepper and salt. Combine and mix well.
- Using hands lightly oiled with extra virgin olive oil, roll the fish paste into 1 inch round smooth balls.
- Cook the fish balls in the soup base for 5 minutes or until fish balls float to the top. Remove and set aside.
For the seaweed soup:
- Cook the cut seaweed pieces in the soup for 5 minutes or until just soft.
- Return the fish balls to the soup. Add 2 teaspoons salt or to taste.
- Garnish with some spring onions (shallots) and serve.
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Thank you for this awesome looking and healthy recipe!
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