Foochow Fish Balls

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Preparation info

  • Makes


    large fish balls
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Chinese Heritage Cooking

Chinese Heritage Cooking

By Christopher Tan and Amy Van

Published 2018

  • About

Fuzhou is famous for its culinary specialty yu wan, otherwise known as fish balls. Squeezed into shape from firm white fish meat minced and beaten into a springy, fluffy paste, yu wan may be plain or stuffed with different fillings made of contrasting ingredients—pork, prawns (shrimps), other kinds of fish—and served simply in a clear broth or threaded on skewers. In Singapore, the pork-stuffed kind are the most familiar at Foochow eateries. Cook them gently and do not over-boil them to ensure they remain juicy inside and out.


Fish Paste

  • Fish meat (see Note) 375 g (13⅖ oz), cut into small scraps and chunks
  • Salt ¾ tsp
  • Egg white Tbsp
  • Ice-cold water 120 ml (4 fl oz / ½ cup)
  • Potato starch 2 Tbsp
  • Tapioca starch 1 Tbsp


  • Minced pork 100 g
  • Light soy sauce ½ tsp
  • Sesame oil ¼ tsp
  • Sugar ¼ tsp
  • Potato starch ½ tsp

Salted Water

  • Salt 2 tsp
  • Lukewarm water 500 ml (16 fl oz / 2 cups)


  1. Prepare fish paste. Toss fish meat with salt until well mixed, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until fish is cold and firm but not frozen solid.

  2. Combine cold fish meat with egg white in a food processor. Pulse until fish is finely minced, then add 1 Tbsp of the ice-cold water and process at medium speed. Stop processing when fish paste looks smooth and cohesive. Scrape fish paste into a clean bowl.

  3. Mix potato starch and tapioca starch to a smooth paste with remaining ice-cold water, then pour it over fish paste and knead in thoroughly.

  4. Scoop up fish paste with a wet hand and throw it back into the bowl to compact it. Repeat this 30–40 times, until paste feels dense and forms a ball. Scrape paste into a plastic bag, press out the air, seal the bag and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  5. Combine ingredients for filling and stir until smooth and well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

  6. Prepare salted water. Dissolve salt in lukewarm water in a bowl.

  7. Prepare fish balls. Roll filling into small balls the size of large peas or beans. With wet hands, roll a generous tablespoonful of fish paste into a ball, then make a deep dent in the ball with your thumb. Place a ball of filling into the dent, pinch fish paste to enclose the ball and seal. Place finished fish ball in salted water. Make all fish balls likewise.

  8. Bring a large pot of water to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add fish balls to pot and poach for 8–9 minutes until cooked through. Water may not return to a simmer until near the end of the cooking—this is fine. Scoop out fish balls. If not using or serving them immediately, transfer fish balls to a bowl of fresh warm water and let stand until needed.