Clear and simple…

In my younger days, we did not have a lot of choices when it comes to cuisines. However, sometimes after eating all those rich and creamy foods in western cuisines, Italian, for one, all the herbs in Thai or Vietnamese food and the spices in Indian cooking as well as some dishes we never heard of before at some Chinese restaurants, I would start to crave for the very simple food I grew up eating.

Some may feel our simple dishes are rather bland and unexciting but I am a simple man. Personally, I do feel that there is beauty in their simplicity and one of my favourites from those long gone days would be fish balls in clear soup…

Fish ball soup 1

Cooking this has never been easier ever since the people in Sarikei started producing frozen fish paste available in packets like this…

Frozen fish paste from Sarikei

In the old days, one would have to make one’s own which would be such a chore and a whole lot of work.

One would have to buy the fish, bay kar (ikan tenggiri/mackerel) no less – I understand there are different types and one is nicer to fry and eat just like that and another is better for making fish balls. The fishmonger may be kind enough to debone or fillet the fish for you, otherwise you will have to do it yourself. Then you will have to scrap the meat off the skin and mince/chop it and pound it even to make it QQ (firm). Finally, you can start cooking your fish balls.

If we did not make our own fish balls, we had to buy the frozen ones from the market or shops. There were some local-made ones that were not too bad but one would need to know where to go and what to buy. Most of the time, the factory-made ones were not good – when you boiled them, they would expand from the size of golf or ping pong balls to the size of tennis balls!!! This was because of the amount of flour in them and the fact that there wasn’t much fish wasn’t too bad – there would be all the preservatives, artificial flavouring, msg and what have you. That is why I am not keen on going to all those steamboat places in town – they give you all the frozen stuff and for the amount of money I have to fork out, I might as well have my own steamboat at home…

Steamboat at home

Cooking this is so easy now – you just take the paste and roll it into balls and drop them into a pot of boiling water. I will usually add a few cloves of garlic for the added taste and to cover the fishy smell and of course, I will add a handful of Tianjin preserved vegetable or what we call tang chai/dong chai (冬菜), rinsed well, after taking the amount required from the pack. I will add some chopped spring onion and daun sup (Chinese celery) to enhance the taste and fragrance of the soup. One may add fried shallots too, if one so desires. When using this paste, there is no need to add any salt and msg – they already have them in the paste. You may add your own pepper if you like that.

Incidentally, I heard some people complaining about the fish paste from Jakar. They were the first to come out with it but lately, I have been buying the one in the above photograph from Sarikei and it is good, no problem at all. Cooking fish ball soup…

Fish ball soup 2

…has never been easier and one can even add tang hoon (glass noodles)…

Tang hoon fish balls

…to it to enjoy. I’ve also heard of one Sibu homemade fish paste that’s very good but I’ve yet to go and buy. Will blog about it when I do.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

10 thoughts on “Clear and simple…”

  1. I used to watch my mother scrap the fish meat from ikan parang (sai dou fish) and then stir and knead the fish meat without adding any flour to make fish balls. All the stirring and kneading would make the fish meat QQ. Wow! Your steamboat and tang Hoon with fish balls look so tasty. What is the other ingredient in your tang Hoon bowl? Looks like some sort of deep fried food.

    Yes, no flour added in good homamade fish balls…and that’s right – we pound the fish paste using the batu lesong to make it QQ. Otherwise, it will be like fish meat, when cooked, not QQ, not springy.

    That was tau kua, bean curd cake. I cut a slit to stuff fish paste and fry. You get that at yong tofu places.

    1. Wah, you make your own Tau kua Yong tofu! Yummy!

      Very easy. One of these days, I am going to do the whole works, stuffed ladies fingers, stuffed chili, stuffed brinjal…to enjoy, like yong tafu!

  2. That is what I grew up eating too. Till this day, I still prefer this simple clear soup. I never see my late father using baru lesong to pound the fish paste, instead he will put the fish paste on the wooden chopping board and use the side of the knife to beat (phiak phiak) the fish paste till QQ. If making Yong tau fu, I will add fish paste to the minced meat to hold the meat together and then stuffed it into the tauhu.

    Oh? I would not want to add meat especially if it is for our no-meat Friday. Yes, many will just use the chopper – we use the batu lesung, same thing. My mum did that and my missus too, stop regularly to test the texture of the paste, not QQ enough, pound some more. I dunno how to make, never learn – that is why I am very happy we can buy the paste now.

    1. But has the frozen paste been pounded to be QQ?

      Yes, just roll into balls and drop into boiling water to cook the soup. No need to do anything else.

  3. I know many people love fishballs especially children. I am not crazy about fishballs but I do enjoy them in clear soup too at the restaurant.

    You don’t? Not into yong tofu? Don’t tell me you like the dry version. Not for me, thank you. I love anything in clear soup.

  4. True. Too much of those rich flavours, we tend to go for bland taste. Like your noodle soup.

    Same thing every Chinese New Year, by the 3rd Day, I would be craving for plain porridge with salted fish and salted egg. Too much of a good thing ain’t all that great!

  5. this does look comforting. hopefully the food and ingredients of our youth won’t vanish too quickly, since that might be what we crave the most in times of trouble…

    Don’t speak too soon. Luckily. we have this fish paste (and there are stalls in town selling fish ball soup with their own-made fish balls). I dunno how to make but my missus does – otherwise, no quality fish balls in the house for cooking soup even now. May vanish sooner than you expect.

    1. Won’t vanish cos Melissa will learn to make it from her mother.

      That will be the day. She likes the soup and the tang hoon but not the fish balls. More into western cuisine, Korean… My missus rarely made her own fish balls too – too much work, I guess.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at sibutuapui@yahoo.com

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