Meatballs made out of fish meat is a common food all along the coastal region of China, in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and because of the Chinese diaspora in the Malay Archipelago.
However the best fishballs are said to come from Singapore. That is because in Singapore, Chinese descendants there adopted the use of a tropical saltwater fish called “Ikan Parang” in Malay or “Sai Doh Hi” in Chinese Min-Nan language in the making of fishballs. Both names translate as “knife fish”.
Singapore’s fishballs are also always very big – the size of a pingpong ball.
Known in English as the Whitefin Wolfherring, the Chirocentrus nudus swims only in the warm waters of Malaysia and Indonesia. Ikan parang is not to be confused with its cousin, the Dorab wolfherring, more commonly found in many parts of the world.
It is untrue that fishballs are completely artificial and are always machine-made. This may be true for a lot of commercial products nowadays but fishballs have been made for hundreds of years and only very fresh fish can produce top quality fishballs.
A tell-tale sign of inferior fishballs is that they swell when boiled, because flour or glutine was added to replace fishmeat, such as those produced in other parts of Southeast Asia.
There is nothing artificial about the making of fishballs. All you need is: fresh Ikan Parang, salt, ice-cold water and lukewarm water. Nothing more, nothing less.
In a future post, I shall demonstrate how you can make fresh fishballs at home.