Many years ago, an enterprising young man changed the way we Indians ate international food. He covered bite sized chicken nuggets in flour batter and deep fried them. Then, he dunked these nuggets in a sauce and called it Indo Chinese food. From then on, to this date, we never really have come out of that frenzy. Thankfully, with the coming of the internet and advancement in travel, home style Chinese or Thai or Japanese is becoming more accessible. But, seekers of the truth like me want to delve deeper. What exactly is the kind of food they eat across the Himalayas. What are the kitchen secrets a Japanese mother-in-law shares only with her daughter-in-law and not with her daughter so that secrets stay only in the family. Purabi Naha (twitter: @purabinaha), my friend and author of the blog Cosmopolitan CurryMania (http://cosmopolitancurrymania.com) will tell you. Purabi has spent some of her years in Hong Kong and is an expert in Asian cooking. I have personally diverted many of my queries regarding Asian cooking to her and come back feeling confident of being able to tackle the dish. I decided to request her to share her expertise so that you can recreate the same magic right back in the comfort of your kitchen. She will tell you about the basics of Asian cooking and how to ace it. There is also delish recipe to cover and awesome post. Enjoy the ride 🙂
Hi Tummy Tales readers! When my talented foodie friend Elson Sequiera asked me to write a post on Asian Cuisine, Indonesian Sambal Fish Balls were the first thing which came to my mind. Once you master the art of making Asian fish balls at home, you can create a number of Asian dishes using these. These are used in Hong Kong style curried fish balls, different kinds of Asian fishball soups, braised dishes and in noodles. Come with me to an enthralling journey to making a unique gastronomic Asian delight, smeared in spicy Indonesian Sambal sauce. This recipe is my personal favourite, as it has a medley of choicest vegetables, which adds freshness and colour to the whole dish! I hope you will like it. Thank you, Elson, for giving me an opportunity to write a guest post on your wonderful blog!
Indonesian Sambal Fish Balls with Vegetables
Asian fish balls are found in different flavours and cooked in different ways across Asia. Fish balls- on-a-stick and fish ball soup in different avatars are the quintessential street foods in many parts of Asia. I have to admit, making fish balls from scratch isn’t that easy, but it is not impossible either. It requires a little practice and lot of patience, but then, at the end of the day, you get authentic Asian fish balls right in your kitchen, sitting in India (or anywhere else in the world)! When we were living in Hong Kong, I rarely made these. Fish balls are available in Hong Kong wet markets in plenty and there are so many (Read more here) kinds to choose from. But here in India, these are rare. So it makes sense to make these if you are determined to surprise your guests with not-so-common Asian dishes. The right fish balls are those which spring back when pressed with a finger. I will tell you how to make springy fish balls from scratch!
Any white, firm fish works fine. The popular ones are mackerel, snapper or herring. In Hong Kong, they love to use cuttlefish, octopus and lobsters. Sometimes, these balls have gooey stuffing in them.
We need to make the fish paste first, by removing the bones and the skin of the fish and then mincing the fish in the food processor, along with seasoning, egg white and little cornflour. Some people also add tapioca flour and potato starch to the balls, but cornflour works fine. After mincing, the real work begins. We have to beat this paste until it is sturdy, springy and easy to handle. This beating is best done by hand, so as to activate the fish protein in the fish, which in turn makes the balls bouncy. Authentically, the balls are made by throwing the paste multiple number of times on a plate or a bowl. At the end, the paste will incorporate a lot of air and is also much easier to handle. Chilling the paste at this stage (just for 30 min), before plunging them in boiling water, is a good idea to get round fish balls.
Before I tell you the recipe, let me share with you some Asian cooking tips and tricks which I follow often in my kitchen:
1. If you are confused whether to use light or dark soy sauce in your Chinese recipes, this will help: use light soy sauce for seasoning and dark soy sauce to add a caramel colour to your dish.
2. I often prefer to use Chinese cooking wine and vinegar together in my Chinese dishes, especially when I am cooking seafood. It really gives a different kind of flavour to your dish and also helps in lessening the fishy smell. In Chinese cooking, three kinds of wines are used: Shaoxing wine (having the least alcohol content), rice wine and rose wine. When you cook with wine, be cautious to keep a check on the flame, as alcohol catches fire easily.
3. If you are making a slow-cooked Chinese soup with pork, beef or chicken, it is advisable to first blanch the meat in boiling water for a minute or so. This water should be discarded and the meat can be used for further cooking. This process helps in removing the musky taste, blood clots and grease from your final soup. You will also get less scum at the surface of your soup on doing so.
4. Use chicken bouillon powder to make your dishes more flavourful. Vegetarian can use vegetable stock in place of water, in any Asian savoury recipe.
5. A cast-iron kadhai (wok) is perfect for cooking Asian dishes on the gas stove. However, slow- cooked dishes (like soups) can be done in electric slow cooker as well. Another equipment I love is the clay pot. I use it when I want that rustic, charred taste in my Asian dishes. This works perfectly well for beef brisket and for making clay-pot rice!
6. Use Shiitake mushrooms in place of your regular button mushrooms, if available. These have tons of flavour! Also, unlike Indian cooking, in other Asian recipes, the vegetables are eaten best when these retain their crunch. So do not overcook the vegetables.
Indonesian Sambal Fish Balls with Vegetables
Ingredients for fish balls:
- Any white fish fillet (basa): 400 g
- Shrimps (deveined): 400 g
- Black pepper powder: ¾ tsp
- Spring onion greens (very finely chopped): 1 tsp
- Cornflour: 2 tbsp
- Egg white: 1
- Salt: ¾ tsp
Ingredients for the Stir-Fried Veggies:
- Onions: 2 (chopped in cubes)
- Red bell pepper(cubed): ¾ cup
- Yellow bell pepper (cubed): ¾ cup
- French beans (chopped): ½ cup
- Garlic (minced): 1 tsp
- Pumpkin cubes (blanched previously for five minutes): ¾ cup
- Sesame oil: 5 tbsp
- Dark soy sauce: 1 tbsp
- Plum sauce: 1 tbsp
- Fish sauce: 1.5 tbsp
- Tomato ketchup: 2 tbsp
- Chicken powder (dissolved in one cup of warm water): 1 tbsp
- Indonesian Sambal Oleek paste: 2 tsp
- Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
- Salt: according to taste
Combine all the ingredients, except the corn flour, for the fish balls in a food processor and make a fine paste. It is sticky at this stage. Pulse once again with the cornflour. Now, transfer into a big bowl and take handfuls of this paste and slap it back into the bowl. Continue this process for around 20 min, or until you find that the paste is less sticky and full of bounce.
Chill this paste for 30 min. After that, make small balls out of the paste and transfer them carefully to a wok of boiling water (to which 1 tsp salt has been added). Remove the balls after 10 min.
Heat oil in the wok. Add the onions and garlic. Sauté on high heat for 3 min. Add the veggies, except the pumpkin. Let the veggies cook for 10 min. Add the sauces now. (I combine all the sauces together in a small bowl and then add this mix to the veggies.)Cook on high heat for 2 min. Add the pumpkin and the fish balls. Cook for another 5 min.
Add the chicken stock. Adjust the seasoning. Add the black pepper powder and mix well. Cook for 5 min. Serve with steamed rice or boiled noodles.