I have a very special friend, best known as el @Sickaction. He has an obsession with balls. He relentlessly interjects the subject of “balls” into any conversation, particularly during inappropriate dining occasions.
On Thanksgiving last year, I gave him his very own pair of goat testicles (but that’s for another post).
So on his birthday, we decided that a balls-themed party would be the most suited. Nothing beats stuffing the birthday boy’s mouth full of balls. On the menu was meat balls, which we also grilled and turned into meat ball sliders on Hawaiian sweet rolls.
We scooped melon balls from a watermelon and several cantaloupes and honeydews. What a pain in the ass. The left over juices were transformed into melon agua fresca.
I also made a huge batch of curried fish balls. Curried fish balls is a popular street food in Hong Kong. I remember from my childhood, the street vendors would park their food carts at high traffic areas. The carts were essentially big push buggies that held a huge cauldron of heated broth. Steel compartments divided the broth into several flavors, ranging from curry to soy marinate. Often, one section was reserved for steaming fish sui mai, sticky rice rolls, and other dim sum.
My favourite spot to get curried fish balls was outside the Star Ferries in Hung Hom, Whampoa where I grew up. On a chilly day, I would drag my parents over to the curry fish ball man and ask for a skewer or two. Using tongs, he fished each ball out of the steaming curry broth and jabbed them onto skewers in a row. The bouncy balls made from fish paste were completely saturated by the mild curry broth. Served piping hot and dripping with sauce, there’s really nothing quite like it.
Nowadays, unlicensed food vendors are banned from the streets and I recall my teachers lecturing us not to buy food from them for sanitation reasons. Curried fish balls are still readily found in noodle shops and other stationary food stands. Still, the thrill of ordering fish balls from a man with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and eyes shifting to detect oncoming health inspectors, will always be imprinted in my memory. This one’s for you, Sickaction.
Curried Fish Balls Recipe
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of your favourite yellow curry paste
- 1 14 oz can of coconut milk
- 2 packs of fish balls, approx 40 (regular or deep fried versions should be available at the Asian market)
- 1/2 small daikon (white Japanese radish), peeled and cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
- brown or palm sugar
- chicken broth or water
- 2 dry bay leaves
- salt to taste
- vegetable oil
- In a large pot, sweat the onion in 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat. When the onion is translucent, add the curry paste, 2 tbs of brown sugar, and cook while stirring for 3 minutes until it’s very fragrant.
- Add the fish balls, the daikon (if using), the bay leaf, and the coconut milk to the pot and stir thoroughly. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. If the curry looks too dry to coat the ingredients, add some water of chicken broth. There should be enough liquid to cover 1/3 of the fish balls.
- When the fish balls have puffed up and the daikon is tender, it is ready. Season with salt and more brown sugar to taste.
- Serve over steamed rice, or as I prefer, on skewers
Note: the curries on the streets of HK are thinner and not coconut-ty because 1) coconut milk is pricy 2) the constantly simmering sauce picks up whatever flavours the ingredients release. I personally like coconut milk’s rich flavour and how it coats the fish balls. Simply omit it and replace with chicken broth if you prefer.