Captain Louie’s Fish Balls 5.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Jan 31, 2016

Surprisingly springy and pure in their fish flavor, these boiled Chiuchow-style balls are designed to be served in soup, but they’re good as hors d’oeuvres as well. The old-school technique calls for grinding and seasoning white fish, then gathering the mixture into a ball and repeatedly throwing/slapping it in a mixing bowl; the method helps create the proper texture. It makes a bit of a mess, with bits of fish flying, so we recommend using a food processor and stand mixer instead.

You can use a regular meat grinder (with a small-holed die) or grinder attachment on a stand mixer instead of a food processor. Shrimp may be substituted for the fish.

Serve with soy sauce or chili oil.

Make Ahead: The cooked fish balls can be assembled, frozen separately on a sheet in the freezer, then frozen in a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible, for up to 1 month; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

5 - 8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 5-8 servings; makes twenty to twenty-four 1 1/2-inch balls

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh skin-on white-fleshed fish fillets, such as Spanish mackerel, kingfish or walleye (may substitute 1 pound shelled, deveined raw shrimp)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large egg whites (1 1/2 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water


Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Use a spoon to scrape the meat from the fillets, being careful to avoid any blood lines. Discard the skin or reserve it for later use (such as making fish stock).

Place the fish scrapings in the food processor; puree for about 30 seconds or until the fish’s consistency is pastelike; a ball will form, but the fish will also coat the sides of the bowl. Use a spatula to inspect the paste, making sure no discrete pieces of fish remain. Scrape it into the bowl of a stand mixer; add the salt, sugar, egg whites, cornstarch, white pepper, sesame oil, fish sauce and water. Beat (paddle attachment) on low speed for 2 minutes or until well combined, then increase the speed to medium-low; beat for 2 minutes. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Beat on medium-high speed for 11 minutes. The fish ball mixture should look smooth and a little glossy and should start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Place a small bowl of water nearby.

Once the fish paste is ready, place a small handful of the mixture in your palm, close your hand over it and form a small circle with your thumb and index finger. Squeeze your hand until a ball of paste emerges through that circle, then use a spoon to scrape off the squeezed ball, letting it drop into the pot of boiling water. (Or you can form the balls in another way that works for you.) As you form the balls, occasionally dip the spoon into the small bowl of water; this will help keep the fish ball mixture from sticking to the spoon.

Cook in batches of 4 or 5 for about 5 minutes per batch. The fish balls will lighten in color, and some may float as they’re done; they will be a uniform texture and color all the way through. Cut into one of them after it has cooled for a few minutes; the texture should be elastic and springy.

As the fish balls are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate or directly into a pot of soup.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Louis Wu, founder of W&T Seafood in New York.

Tested by Tamar Haspel and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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