Homemade Chinese Fish Balls…The Way They Should Be Made

Fish balls are a staple in many Asian homes. In Hong Kong they are a popular street food. There are as many fish ball stands in Hong Kong as there are hot dog stands in North America. They can be eaten on their own, fried, boiled, with noodles, in curry, in hot pots, on skewers, barbecued or any way you can think of cooking them! All ways are delicious!

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As delicious as they are, it shocked me when I looked into what ingredients were used in most store-bought and restaurant-served fish balls. If you read my earlier fish ball post, you’ll recall all the details. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here. It also includes a recipe for a healthy alternative to the traditional Asian fish balls (crispy pan-fried fish balls).

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I’ve received a lot of comments and requests for me to post a recipe for homemade, traditional, Chinese fish balls. So, as I promised a few months ago, I did some research and tried it out on my own. Making your own fish balls, or fish paste, obviously takes more time and effort than opening a frozen package from the store, but it’s definitely worth the effort if you want your food fresh, preservative-free and without added fillers in the ingredients. Continue reading

A Classic Mignonette: An Oystergirl’s Best Friend

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but a girl like me would have to say that there are far better things in life than diamonds. For me, this list includes oysters. Some of the most beautiful things in the world come from the sea, a whole different world full of colours and life and secrets that will never be revealed to us. Oysters, to me, are the secrets of the ocean contained. Each beautiful shell unique and carrying the smell, the taste and the stories of the sea.

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If you don’t know by now, oysters are one of my favourite things in the world. They are not only a favourite food, they are an astoundingly complex and interesting species to study. I could spend days discussing my love for oysters and all the good they bring to this world. If you’d like to hear more about that, for the love of oysters, click here!

If you love eating these briny beauties as much as I do, you must know that going out to an oyster bar can start to get expensive. Shucking them yourself is lots of fun (if you know how) and a great money saver! I’ll seriously warn you though, please shuck carefully! You don’t want to hurt yourself! If you’re in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), I recommend contacting Oysterboy to do a shucking class! Lots to learn, and lots of fun!

Shucking your own oysters has lots of benefits! You save money, you can enjoy oysters in the comfort of your own home (or whatever environment you please) and you can impress friends and family at get togethers or family gatherings. Oysters are great for any occasion!

There’s nothing better than a freshly shucked oyster eaten as is, but I do like to play around with different flavours so I always have my go-to sauces and oyster-sidekicks available. Continue reading

Lobster Linguine With Saffron & Cream

I almost jump at every opportunity to use saffron in my cooking. I have an unexplained love for it’s delicate strands, gorgeous colour, and subtle earthy flavour. Saffron is harvested from the Crocus sativus flower, a member of the Iris family. Cultivated for thousands of years in Asia Minor, it is used in perfumes, dyes, medicine and, of course, for its wonderful flavour in food and drinks. There’s something so beautiful about the deep maroon shade of the strands and the rich golden yellow that comes from the tip of the thread (from which the saffron spice is derived.) It makes me smile from the inside out. 🙂

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“According to Greek mythology, handsome mortal Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph Smilax. But alas, his favors were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower.” (about.com)

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Here is the crocus flower that saffron comes from. So pretty!

This dinner all began with a request for lobster tagliatelle. I didn’t know where to begin, so I began where I always do…the recipe hunt. I was looking for simple recipes that required ingredients I already had at home. (Minus the lobster of course.) I found a few seafood tagliatelle recipes that I liked, but stuck with this one as a guideline, making my own alterations here and there based on what I wanted to make and the ingredients I had available at home. The result was a lobster linguine in a light creamy sauce. Delicious! Continue reading

Shucking Up A Storm!

You may think it’s a waste of time and money to take an oyster shucking class, and that your pry-it-open-with-a-screwdriver, smash-it-with-a-hammer, or stab-yourself-in-the-hand methods are working just fine, but I’d say learning the proper way is totally worth it.

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Last weekend I took an oyster shucking class at Oyster Boy. It was so much fun. Eating oysters can be quite an expensive hobby. If you’re an oyster lover like me, I’m sure you already know this. Shucking your own oysters is a great skill to have. You can save money by buying your oysters at the market or from a wholesaler and shucking them yourself. But, I’m a believer in doing things the right way, which is why I wanted to learn to shuck from the experts. Impress your friends with gorgeously shucked oysters, that aren’t full of grit/sand.

The classes at Oyster Boy happen every weekend (Saturday and Sunday from 11:00-1:00). Each class holds 8-12 people and each shucker receives Continue reading

Lobster Mac And Cheese: THE BEST You’ll Ever Have.

Macaroni and cheese. Classic comfort food. I’ve had it over and over again throughout my life. There are some nights when you just crave that gooey, cheesy pasta…and tonight was one of those nights for me. I rummaged through cookbooks and looked online to find out where to begin. I had lobster tails in the freezer and right away thought, “LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE!”. I ended up picking out an Emeril seafood mac and cheese recipe to guide me.

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I’ve had only a few really good macaroni and cheese experiences in my life. I find I’m often disappointed with what I am served at restaurants. I get so excited at the table when I see lobster, or crab, or truffle mac and cheese on the menu. The excitement builds until my food arrives, and then I’m usually let down by the not-as-glorious-as-I-thought-it-would-be dish of pasta. Continue reading

Spicy Creole Shrimp

This is a really quick, really simple, really tasty, really spicy, recipe. I LOVE spicy food, but I know that not everyone does, so I’m giving you the warning now: spice alert! That being said, you can adjust the recipe however you like to make it work for you. A simple solution: use less cayenne pepper and don’t add the deathly pepper from hell!

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While I’ve sadly never been to New Orleans myself, although we’re planning a possible trip in JUNE! (Excitement!), I can certainly appreciate the wonderful flavours that it has to offer the food world. Creole cooking involves a beautiful mix of everything I love. If you’ve never tried this southern deliciousness, it’s hard for me to put into words. Creole cuisine is a combination of Caribbean, African, French, and Spanish flavour influences. Hot pepper, seafood, butter, citrus, tomato, onion, celery, rice, bean explosion of taste! It’s real comfort food.

Anyway, this is a quick recipe I found from a blog called Tummy Travels. I tried it with my tiger shrimp last weekend as part of a huge seafood feast I unintentionally put together. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic Shrimp Creole. I think that involves more veggies, a tomato base, a nice saucy gravy-ness and it’s traditionally served over rice. This shrimp could be a main served with French bread or a good addition to any meal. It’s got nice Southern flavour and a good kick to it!

Cooking shrimp makes me think of Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump (hope you’ve seen it). Bubba knows a million ways shrimp, “the fruit of the sea”, can be cooked. I love this clip! 🙂

The tiger shrimp I used were headless, but I cooked them with the shells on. Heads on, ever better! You can find whole shrimps at most Asian grocery stores if you don’t see any at your usual store or market. Cooking shrimp with the heads and shell intact add so much more flavour! All the juices are kept inside. In New Orleans, crawfish and shrimp are always cooked whole. The best part is pulling off the heads and sucking all the delicious juices and seasonings out of there before eating the rest of it. I know the heads freak some people out, but they’re delicious, I promise. In my half-Asian household, I grew up eating shrimps with heads. My sister and I discovered the next best thing to press-on nails…wearing the pointy/spiky shrimp head shells on our finger tips. It kept us entertained, and super stylish, at family dinners. (Cute…minus the shrimpy fingers afterwards.)

Spicy Creole Shrimp

Ingredients:
The spicy stuff is optional…switch it up to keep things at the spice level you want.
This recipe called for 8 tablespoons of butter (a whole stick). I cut the butter amount in half. I didn’t want to go too butter crazy, but by all means, use more butter. More butter = more sauce, and a richer sauce.

  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds shrimp (I recommend doing them with shells and heads, but you can do headless, or peeled if you like)
  • ~1/2 – 1 tablespoon olive oil, to saute garlic
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon (my large lemon gave about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter (just cut butter into cubes and keep cold)
  • Sea salt, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic, and saute until garlic has softened.

2. Add all other ingredients except butter and shrimp. Allow this mixture to reduce for a couple minutes on medium heat. There wasn’t too much liquid and it reduced quite quickly. Don’t let it burn!

3. Add your shrimp into the pan, cooking one side and then flipping to cook the other. Two minutes on each side should be sufficient. The shrimps are cooked when they turn pink.

4. Turn to low heat and begin slowly incorporating cubes of butter.

5. When well mixed you should have a gorgeously rich, amber, shrimp creation.

6. Plate and serve!

Enjoy! xx

A Healthy Alternative To Asian Fish Balls…And Why Your Fish Balls Should Be Homemade.

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I love Chinese fish balls (and beef balls, squid balls…all of them). After all, I am part Chinese. How could I not? I’ve grown up eating them in fish ball noodle soup, curried on bamboo skewers, barbecued, in hotpots…Asians use them everywhere! If you’ve been to Hong Kong, curried fish balls are a very popular street food. These stalls can be found all over, they’re sort of the Hong Kong equivalent to hot dog stands. I have to admit though, there’s something creepy about those seafood/meat balls and how rubbery they are. If you’ve ever accidentally dropped a cooked fish ball on the floor and seen how high it bounces off the ground…weird, right? And a lot of the time, they don’t taste very fishy at all. I never really questioned what I was eating, I just ate. I thought I’d do a little investigating on how Asian fish balls were made.

I found out that the bouncier the fish ball, the better. The rubbery bounciness actually has nothing to do with the ingredients of the fish ball. (Thank goodness!) It has to do with how long and hard the fish paste is slapped down repeatedly before being balled. I’ve seen women in Hong Kong marketplaces slamming big balls of fish meat on large wooden chopping blocks. Now I know why. To make their fish balls bounce and spring open upon being eaten!…I guess.

The rest of the answers I found are not so pretty. The whole fish ball fad dates back to to the 50’s in Hong Kong. They were made as a cheap, yet filling, snack food targeted towards the low to middle class population. Most fish balls you buy today are made with cheap fish and full of additives, such as MSG, and fillers. The cheaper fish balls consist of very little fish (sometimes less than 20%) and contain a large proportion of flour. Fish balls are mass produced in factories and made with fish that are not carefully selected. The fish portion of the fish balls is called surimi. What the heck is surimi?

Surimi is an Asian fish-based food product, and a common ingredient in Asian processed foods. I’ll let Wikipedia sum it up:

“Lean meat from fish or land animals is first separated or minced. The meat then is rinsed numerous times to eliminate undesirable odors. The result is beaten and pulverized to form a gelatinous paste. Depending on the desired texture and flavor of the surimi product, the gelatinous paste is mixed with differing proportions of additives such as starch, egg white, salt, vegetable oil, humectants, sorbitol, sugar,soy protein, seasonings, and enhancers such as transglutaminases and monosodium glutamate (MSG). If the surimi is to be packed and frozen, food-grade cryoprotectants are added as preservatives while the meat paste is being mixed. Under most circumstances, surimi is processed immediately into a formed and cured product.”

Surimi is a cheaper way for manufacturers to imitate the flavour and texture of a more expensive product. They take this tasteless gelatinous paste and then add the desired artificial flavour. Not so appetizing. I’ll have a real lobster tail, thanks.

So, on to making your own fish balls at home! I came across this recipe a couple weeks ago and thought it was amazing! I’ve stolen it from The Iron Cheftress, a blog I really like. You should check it out! It’s full of creative and healthy recipes amongst lots of other interesting stuff.

This recipe makes crispy pan-fried fish balls, with a bit of jalapeno spiciness. The best part is, they’re made purely of fish and a lot less carbs then store bought versions. They’re really yummy and would be a great meal or served as an appetizer. However, these are a dry and crispy fish ball, they’re not really meant for soup. I’m going to try making some real Asian-style fish balls in broth soon, but that’ll be a different recipe to share. 🙂

Crispy Fish Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of white fish (I used 2 frozen basa fillets I had in the freezer…a bit less than a pound)
  • 1/3 of a jalapeno pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 inch cube of fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of a thick carrot
  • 2 cloves of garlic (I’m sure I used more, I always use more with garlic)
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (optional)
  • Salt (salt is unnecessary to salt frozen fish)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of bran cereal, whole wheat flour, oat flour, whatever flour you’d like (I made these during Passover so I used matzah ball mix and it worked perfectly)

1. Process the fish until it becomes a paste, then transfer to a bowl. I used a food processor, but I’ve seen it done using the back of a chopper knife on a cutting board. (Probably more traditional Asian. If you don’t have a food processor then that will work.)

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2. Process jalapeno, carrot, ginger, garlic, and shallot. Add to the bowl of fish paste. (If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to samurai chop those veggies to bits.)

3. Mix it all together and season with black pepper (and salt if needed). Roll the fish paste into small bite-sized balls.

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4. If you are using bran cereal, grind it up. If not, have whatever flour you’re using in a small bowl. Roll each fish ball in your bran/flour until all sides are coated. I used matzah ball mix (for Passover purposes).

5. Heat a pan on medium heat and spray with cooking oil to keep the fish balls from sticking.

6. Once heated, place all your coated fish balls into the pan and keep rolling them around until they’re nice and crispy and a golden colour. It’s hard to make them a perfect ball. Mine kind of flattened out and became a little angular, and I may have over-browned them a bit…but they were delicious.

7. Serve them right away, with a spicy sauce. While they’re still nice and hot! I served mine with a sweet chili sauce and a horseradish ketchup (kind of like a hot cocktail sauce).

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So yummy! Enjoy! xx

Lobster & Shrimp Linguine in a White Wine Sauce

As promised, here’s the second half of the heavenly dinner I created last night. Of all the different pasta I’ve made, this is definitely one of my favourites. The recipe is really simple and outrageously delicious.

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I like to keep my pasta recipes simple. The fresher the ingredients, the less seasoning you need. Only add what you must. You want all the flavours to stand out, but also compliment one another. Keep it simple.

As we all know, I LOVE seafood. I was in the mood for shrimp linguine, but on my way to pick up the shrimp I noticed lobster tails were on sale. Why not make this pasta twice as good? I did.

Lobster & Shrimp Linguine in a White Wine Sauce
(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 10 white tiger shrimps, peeled and deveined (I used 5 shrimps per person, you can use more or less. You can also use any type of shrimp you like)
  • 2 lobster tails, de-shelled and cut into 1-inch cubes (My tails were not too big. Again, use more or less if you like.)
  • 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic (I like lots of garlic.)
  • truffle salt/sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay…it’s what I had at home.)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (Use dry if you don’t have fresh.)
  • Linguine (enough for 2 servings)

I chose to cut my lobster tails in half, remove the meat, and then cut the meat into smaller cubes.

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In a large saucepan of boiling salted water cook the linguine until al dente. You don’t want your pasta mushy, it should be firm but not hard. You should add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt for every 8 cups of water. Don’t get salt-crazy.

Melt some butter in a pan at medium low heat. This is to cook the shrimp and lobster in. I mentioned, in the ingredients, that you could also use olive oil for this step if you prefer using less butter, just make sure the pan is well coated. Add in your garlic and some pepper (to taste). Let the garlic saute for 1-2 minutes. Don’t burn it, just let it sizzle a bit.

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Next add the shrimp and lobster. Spread the pieces out in the pan.

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You want to cook the shrimp until they’re just pink. Cooking them for about 2 minutes per side should be enough, depending on the size. Shrimp cooks fast! Don’t overcook! The lobster will cook quickly as well. It will be firm, white, and opaque when it’s done.

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Once cooked, move them quickly from the heat of the pan to a bowl or plate. In the same pan, add the butter and wine. Add some salt (I used truffle salt :)) and more pepper to taste. Let this simmer until the sauce starts to thicken a little.

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Next, add your shrimp and lobster back into the sauce along with 2 tablespoons of parsley and stir a bit. Everything’s cooked, you just want to warm it up and get everything to the same temperature. Add your cooked pasta into the pan and toss it all together.

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Now plate your pasta, you can add a bit of extra parsley on top, and dig in!!! This recipe is so simple and it tastes so good! Let me know how it turns out.

Happy eating! xx