fish balls

How to Make Fish Balls

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Back in the 1800s, codfish was plentiful along the east coast in the U.S. and cookbooks often had recipes for fish balls. Fish balls are no longer popular here, but are quite common in Scandinavia, China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.


Prepare a fish stock from the skin, bones, and trimmings of fish, seasoning with bay-leaf, onion, mace, cloves, and garlic. Boil slowly for an hour in water to cover. Chop the raw fish with a few blanched almonds and a little garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and mace, and shape into small balls. Strain the stock, bring it to the boil, drop the balls in, and simmer slowly for twenty minutes. Skim out the balls and put on ice. Beat six eggs thoroughly with a little cold water and add them gradually to the boiling stock. Cook in a double-boiler until smooth and thick. Take from the fire, add the juice of two lemons, and a tablespoonful of tarragon vinegar. Pour the sauce over the balls, sprinkle with capers and minced parsley, and serve very cold.

Pare six medium-sized potatoes and put on in boiling water. Boil half an hour. Drain off all the water, turn the potatoes into a tray with one pint of finely-chopped cod fish, and mash light and fine with a vegetable masher. Add one heaping tablespoon butter, some pepper, two tablespoons cream, or four of milk, and two eggs. Mix all very thoroughly. If the potatoes are very mealy it will take more milk or cream to moisten them.  Shape into smooth balls the size of an egg, and fry brown in boiling fat enough to float them. They will cook in three minutes. If the fat is smoking in the center and the balls are made very smooth, they will not soak fat; but if the fat is not hot enough, they certainly will. Putting too many balls into the fat at one time cools it. Put in say four or five. Let the fat regain its first temperature, then add more.

Boil the quantity of codfish that will be needed, changing the water once. While the fish is hot, pick it very fine, so that it is feathery. It cannot be done fine enough with a fork, and should be picked by hand. At the same time have hot boiled potatoes ready. Mash them thoroughly, and make them creamy with milk and a good-sized lump of butter. To three cupfuls of the mashed potatoes take one and one half cupfuls of fish. The fish should not be packed down. Beat one egg lightly, and stir into the other ingredients and season to taste. Beat the mixture well together and until light, then mold it into small balls, handling lightly. Before frying, roll the balls in flour. Fry them in smoking hot fat until a golden color.

To one cupful of flaked boiled fish, add a cream sauce made of one tablespoon butter, one tablespoon flour, and one half cup milk. Let the sauce be very stiff, so it leaves the sides of the pan. Mix it well with the fish and when hot, add two beaten eggs, pepper, and salt. Drop the mixture, which should be like thick batter, from a spoon into very hot fat. It will puff, and be very light.

NOTE: Salt cod is cod which has been salted and then preserved by drying.  In the recipe below, the fish is set out all night twice.  I assume it didn’t spoil because of the drying process.

Soak a pound of salt cod all night in cold water. Change it in the morning, and cover with lukewarm water for three hours more. Wash it, scraping off the salt and fat. Put it into a saucepan, cover it well with water just blood-warm, and let it simmer—that is, not quite boil for two hours.

Take it up, pick out the bones and remove the skin. Work two tablespoons of milk into the fish while hot. then set it aside to cool. When perfectly cold, chop it fine in a wooden tray. Have ready, for a cupful of minced fish, nearly two cupfuls of potato boiled and mashed very smooth, one tablespoon butter, and one-half  teaspoon salt, When the potato has been rubbed until free from lumps, add the beaten yolk of an egg. Work this in well with a wooden spoon. Now stir in the chopped fish, a little at a time, mixing all together until you have a soft mass which you can handle easily.

Drop a tablespoonful of the mixture on a floured pastry board, or a floured dish. Flour your hands, roll the fish and potato into a ball, and pat it into a cake, or make it as round as a marble. Lay these as you form them on a dish dusted with flour, and when all are made out, set in a cool place until morning.

Half an hour before breakfast, have five or six great spoonfuls of sweet lard hissing hot in a frying-pan or doughnut-kettle. Put in the balls a few at a time, turn as they color, and take them out when they are of a light brown. Lay them in a hot colander set in a plate, and keep warm in the open oven until all are fried.

I found some fish ball recipes on

Have you ever eaten fish balls?,1-0,fish_ball,FF.html

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  1. Thanks for a great recipe, I make fish balls but not nearly as nice sounding as these….

    • I’ve made salmon patties using egg, crushed cracker, and diced onion and frying them in a pan, but had never heard of fish balls. I’d like to try making the puffy fish balls first.

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