|Literal meaning||fish ball|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Traditional Chinese||魚蛋 or 魚旦|
|Simplified Chinese||鱼蛋 or 鱼旦|
|Literal meaning||fish egg|
Fish balls are a popular dish in the Philippines, southern China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, as well as in parts of Southeast Asia among the overseas Chinese communities. They are made with fish paste and boiled in a soupy broth, or deep fried. They are also common in the Nordic countries.
There are two variants of fish balls, each differing in its textures, production method, and primary regions of production:
In the Fuzhou area, "Fuzhou fish balls" (福州鱼丸) are made from fish with a minced pork filling. The variation from Fuqing is much larger.
There are three kinds of fishballs, known as 魚蛋 (literally "fish eggs"), sold in Hong Kong and Macau. They are yellow, white, and golden.
Fishballs are a popular street food in Hong Kong, and the 2016 Mong Kok civil unrest, which escalated from the government's crackdown on unlicensed street hawkers during the Chinese New Year holidays, has been referred to by some media outlets and social media platforms as the "Fishball Revolution" (魚蛋革命).
Smaller in size and made from cheaper fish than the white variety, they are usually sold at food stalls with five to seven balls on a bamboo skewer. The fish balls are usually boiled in a spicy curry sauce. Virtually every street stall creates its own recipe of curry satay sauce to differentiate them from other sellers. Fish balls are one of the city's most popular and representative "street foods" (街頭熟食).
White fish balls are larger in size and made with white fish, such as Spanish mackerel, pounded many times until the fish is a fine paste. Salt can be added, or egg whites and corn starch, but generally no other ingredients are added. The balls are then cooked by boiling. As a result of this cooking method, these fish balls are white in color. White fish balls should have an elastic (bouncy) and fluffy texture and a strong taste of fish. They are made using a more costly fish, and they have a considerably different texture and taste. This kind is usually served to complement noodles at Cháozhōu-style noodle restaurants, and at some cha chaan tengs, which also sell beef balls (牛丸) and cuttlefish balls (墨魚丸). Readily available in traditional markets and supermarkets, fish balls are also a popular ingredient for hot pot.
White fish balls from traditional fish ball restaurants are made from fresh fish and are normally hand-made (手打) by the owners using traditional techniques.
The big golden fish ball is a snack in Cheung Chau. Distinguishing features include size, sauce and texture. They can be fist-sized and are served with a special curry sauce, and they are mainly made from fresh fish which makes the texture more smooth.
The basic ingredients are fish and flour, and flavourings such as salt and sugar can also be used. The proportions depend on the quality and type to be made. The white fish balls found in some traditional Hong Kong restaurants are made using fresh fish, while street style fish balls are made using cheap fish and a mixture of flour to reduce costs. Flathead mullet (九棍魚/烏仔魚) and Daggertooth pike conger (門鱔) are common choices.
Originally, to reduce costs, they were likely made by mixing and frying the remaining materials of Chaozhou fish ball (潮州白魚丸) or stale fish. They began to be imported more recently, and nowadays, they are mainly imported by wholesalers and the texture is more consistent.
Milkfish balls (虱目魚丸) are frequently found in Taiwan. The natural texture and aroma of the milkfish give this variant a unique taste. This is one of the main ways milkfishes' lesser-prized yet highly abundant white meat is consumed.
Fish balls with roe (魚包蛋) are served at hot pot restaurants. They have a sweet and salty taste with a popping element from the roe's texture. There is also a fried golden version.
In Indonesia, fish balls are called bakso ikan (fish bakso). The most popular bakso are made of beef, but fish bakso is also available, served with tofu, vegetables, and fish otak-otak in clear broth soup as tahu kok. Bakso ikan has softer texture and lighter color compared to beef balls. Bakso ikan may be thinly sliced as additional ingredients in mie goreng, kwetiau goreng, nasi goreng and cap cai. A similar dish made of fish surimi is called pempek; however, most of pempek are deep fried instead of boiled.
Fish balls, known as 鱼圆 (yú yuán) or 魚丸 (yú wán), are cooked in many ways in Malaysia and Singapore. They can be served with soup and noodles like the Chiuchow style or with yong tau foo (酿豆腐). They can also be served with noodles called mee pok. In some cases, it is also fried and served on a stick.
Fish balls are a popular street food in the Philippines and are considered a cultural delicacy. The most common type of Filipino fish balls are known as bola-bola. They are round in shape, most often made from cuttlefish or pollock, and served with a sweet and spicy sauce or with a thick, black sweet and sour sauce.
Fish balls in the Philippines are sold by street vendors pushing wooden deep-frying carts. The balls are served skewered, offered with three kinds of dipping sauces: spicy (white/orange coloured) – vinegar, water, diced onions and garlic; sweet (brown gravy coloured) – corn starch, banana ketchup, sugar and salt; and sweet/sour (amber or deeper orange coloured) – the sweet variety with many small hot chilis added. Dark sauces are rare, as these are soy sauce-based and soy sauce is expensive for street food.
A recent trend in the industry is the introduction of varieties: chicken, squid (cuttlefish actually), and elongated versions of fishballs inaccurately called kikiam. The latter, however, are completely different dishes from true kikiam (a Filipino version of Hokkien ngo hiang).
Fish balls are very popular in Thai cuisine. They are usually fried or grilled as a snack. In Chinese-influenced restaurants, fish balls are cooked in noodle soups and come in many varieties. They can also be eaten in a Thai curry. Kaeng khiao wan luk chin pla is green curry with fish balls. One of the main fishes used in the production of fish balls in Thailand is Pla krai (Chitala ornata).
Known as Fiskbullar in Sweden and fiskeboller in Norway and Denmark, Nordic fish balls are white and without breading, and usually come in metal cans or transparent plastic containers containing stock or brine.
In the Faroe Islands, fish balls are called knettir and are made with groundfish and mutton fat.
In Norway, fish balls are a staple food commonly served with potatoes, carrots and/or cauliflower or broccoli in a white sauce. The sauce is often made with the stock from the container, sometimes with mild Madras curry seasoning as a condiment, or mixed to create curry sauce. Adding ketchup to the sauce is commonplace among children.
Additionally, there is a pudding made with minced, groundfish and milk (fiskepudding) or, more luxuriously, with cream (fløtepudding), served with potatoes, carrots, steamed peas, and cauliflower, and sometimes shrimp. Tiny fish balls called suppeboller (literally "soup balls") are also common in fish soup.
In Sweden, they are normally served with mashed potatoes or rice, boiled green peas and dill, caviar or seafood sauces.
There are two types of fishballs in Iceland with very similar names. Fiskbollur [ˈfɪskˌpɔllʏr̥] is very similar to those of Norway and Sweden, whereas Fiskibollur [ˈfɪscɪˌpɔllʏr̥] are fried brown in a pan. Both varieties are served with boiled potatoes, carrots, lettuce, and either bechamel or Madras curry sauce.
German fish balls, known locally as fischklößchen, rely heavily on herbs and herb sauces.
Italian fish balls, known locally as polpette di pesce, are fried with parmesan and breadcrumbs, and they are usually served with a tomato sauce. They can be found both as rounded balls and as patties.