Fish ball

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For the Jewish version of fish balls, see Gefilte fish.
Fish ball
Fishball closeup.jpg
Fish ball closeup
Traditional Chinese 魚蛋 or 魚旦
Simplified Chinese 鱼蛋 or 鱼旦
Literal meaning fish egg
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 魚丸
Simplified Chinese 鱼丸
Literal meaning fish ball

Fish balls are a common food in southern China and overseas Chinese communities made from "fish paste" (otherwise known as Chinese: 魚漿; pinyin: yújiāng; Jyutping: jyu4 zoeng1, or in Japanese surimi). They are also common in Scandinavia, where they are usually made from cod or haddock.

Other names[edit]

At street hawker stalls and dai pai dong in Hong Kong, they are known as 魚蛋 (literally "fish eggs") is used while 魚丸 (yú wán) and 鱼圆 (yú yuán) are more commonly used in Singapore and Malaysia.


Scandinavian fish balls are similar to another popular local dish, meatballs.

Asian meatballs differ significantly in texture from their European counterparts. Instead of being ground, the fish is pounded, giving it a smooth texture. Pounding, unlike grinding, uncoils and stretches previously wound and tangled protein strands in the meat.

Regional variations[edit]

Fish balls and kwek kwek (hard-boiled quail eggs fried in batter) in the Philippines
Fish balls with vermicelli sold in Bukit Batok, Singapore
Swedish fiskbullar, here served with dill sauce and pasta
Kaeng khiao wan luk chin pla: Thai green curry with fish balls

Faroe Islands[edit]

In the Faroe Islands, fish balls are called knettir and are made with ground fish and mutton fat.


In the Fuzhou area, "Fuzhou fish balls" (福州鱼丸) are made from fish with a minced pork filling.

Hong Kong[edit]

The two kinds of fishballs sold in Hong Kong are yellow and white.

Yellow (street food)[edit]

Smaller in size, made from cheaper fish than the white variety, they are usually sold at food stalls with five to seven balls on a bamboo skewer. The fish balls are usually boiled in a spicy curry sauce. Virtually every street stall creates its own recipe of curry satay sauce to differentiate them from other sellers. Fish balls are one of the city's most popular and representative "street foods" (街頭熟食).[1]

To reduce cost, yellow fish balls consist of less than 20% fish and are mass-produced.[2] The fish used in these products are not closely monitored for quality and freshness. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added for flavour.

Many of the stall owners who sell yellow fish balls depend on them as their sole support, similar to the hot dog stands in the United States.

Hong Kong Cleanup[edit]

In 1972, Hong Kong implemented "The Hong Kong Cleanup" action (清潔香港運動) to beautify the city. Cleanliness and hygienic concerns made hawkers a focal point of the campaign. Beginning in 1979 the government stopped licensing hawkers and requested them to sell their licenses to the city. In 1995, the government officially prohibited hawkers and fined those with licenses. In 2000, despite the fact that the government had loosened its supervisory control of hawkers in the New Territory, attempts to arrest hawkers revealed the government's determination.[3] The hawker ban pushed the merchants into street stalls.

White fish balls are larger in size and made with only fish, no other ingredients are added, and then boiled till done. As a result of this cooking method, these fish balls are white in color. A good fish ball should have an elastic (bouncy) and fluffy texture and a strong taste of fish. They are made using a more costly fish, and has a considerably different texture and taste. This kind is usually eaten as a compliment with noodles at Chiuchow-style noodle restaurants,[4] and at some cha chaan tengs, which also sell beef balls (牛丸) and cuttlefish balls (墨魚丸). Readily available in traditional markets and supermarkets, fish balls are also a popular ingredient for hot pot.


The basic ingredients are fish, flour and flavourings such as salt and sugar, can also be used. The proportions depend on the quality and type to be made. The white fish balls found in some traditional Hong Kong restaurants are made using fresh fish; while street style are made using cheap fish and a mixture of flour to reduce costs.[5] Flathead mullet (九棍魚/烏仔魚) and Daggertooth pike conger (門鱔) are common choices.

Originally, to reduce costs, they were likely made by mixing and frying the remaining materials of ChouZhou fish ball 潮州白魚丸 or stale fish. More recently, they began to be imported Nowadays, they are mainly imported by wholesalers and the texture is more consistent.[6]


As of 2012, the market price ranged from HKD$6 to HKD$9 per stick (with 5 fish balls); from HKD$15 to HKD$20 per small bowl (with 10 fish balls); and around HKD$30 per big bowl (with about 20 fish balls), increasing by 50% compared to 2007. In Tai Wai, the price jumped from $5 to $8 or an increase of 60% within two years.[7]

The wholesale price was $16/kg (about 80).[8] A stall owner can earn about $1.30 per ball. According to the owner of Jinwei 津味,[9] a stall operator in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay, the number of fish balls sold per day is 15,000. So the estimated net profit per day is almost $20,000.

In tourist areas, the price can be higher. According to a reporter of SUN Life, one stall in Mong Kok charged an Australian tourist $40 for a bowl of 25; while a local paid $20 for a bowl of 30.[10]


High rents in tourist areas push prices up. The stall located in Yee Woo Street, Causeway Bay had its rent increased to $300,000 per month in 2010, forcing the stall to close.[11]

In some special places, such as the HK flower market, the rents were as high as $510,000 in 2012, a 34% increase.[12] In 2012, break-even volumes had reached 70,000 fish balls per day or 5 per second.[13]

Target customers[edit]

Customers include lower class, working class and middle class eaters. Working-class people are accustomed to eating fish balls after work or after dinner. Higher income people generally get theirs in restaurants.

Vending machine[edit]

In 2004, Ng Han Wai, successfully developed a fish ball vending machine and started his own business. The first fish ball vending machine was located in the Sha Tin MTR station. A$5 coin or the Octopus card can be used. All processes are automated to ensure good hygiene.[14]

The rent for these machines are lower than for a stall. According to Ng, each machine sold about 80 cups of fish ball per day. Together with the revenue from ads and franchise] fees, he estimated that it only took half and a year to break-even.

White (restaurant)[edit]

Traditional Hong Kong fish ball restaurants (老字號魚蛋店)[15] emphasise the quality of their fish. They insist on using specific fish types without flour. 九棍 fish are said to be good for producing a strong taste of fish (魚味). However, these fish are now becoming rare. Other fish, such as 紅衫, are becoming more expensive. The cost of these fish supplies have increased two to threefold in recent years.

White fish balls from traditional fish ball restaurants are made from fresh fish and are normally hand-made (手打) by the owners using traditional techniques. Prices are usually higher.

Golden fish ball[edit]

The big golden fish ball is a snack in Cheung Chau. In 2010, two big golden fish balls were sold at $6. In 2012, they were selling for $10.[citation needed] Their interesting features include size, sauce and texture. They can be fist-sized and are served with a special curry sauce. They are mainly made from fresh fish which makes the texture more al dente.


In Indonesia, fish balls are called bakso ikan (fish bakso). The most popular bakso are made of beef, but fish bakso is also available, served with tofu and fish otak-otak in clear broth soup as tahu kok, or thinly sliced as additional ingredients in mie goreng, kwetiau goreng, and cap cai. A similar dish made of fish is called pempek.

Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore[edit]

Fish balls are cooked in many ways in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. They can be served with soup and noodles like the Chiuchow style or with yong tau foo. They can also be served with noodles called mee pok.


The most common type of Filipino fish balls are known as bola-bola (literally, "ball-ball"). It is somewhat flat in shape and most often made from cuttlefish or pollock and served with a sweet and spicy sauce or with a thick, black, sweet and sour sauce.

Fish balls in the Philippines are sold by street vendors pushing wooden deep-frying carts. The balls are served skewered, offered with three kinds of dipping sauces: spicy (white/orange coloured) – vinegar, water, diced onions and garlic; sweet (brown gravy coloured) – corn starch, banana ketchup, sugar and salt; and sweet/sour (amber or deeper orange coloured) – the sweet variety with lots of small hot chilis added. Dark sauces are rare, as these are soy sauce-based and soy sauce is expensive for street food.

A recent trend in the industry is the introduction of varieties: chicken, squid (cuttlefish actually), and kikiam. The last are low cost renditions vaguely resembling the original Chinese delicacy of the same name.


Fiskbullar atop fusilli pasta

Fiskbullar in Sweden and fiskeboller in Norway are usually bought in cans. In Sweden, they are normally served with mashed potatoes or rice, boiled green peas and dill, caviar or seafood sauces. In Norway, they are commonly served with potatoes and white sauce made with the stock from the can, sometimes with added curry, and occasionally boiled carrot in slices are served on the side or added into the sauce along with the fish balls.


Fish balls are very popular in Thai cuisine. They are usually fried or grilled as a snack. In Chinese-influenced restaurants, fish balls are cooked in noodle soups and come in many varieties. They can also be eaten in a Thai curry. Kaeng khiao wan luk chin pla is green curry with fish balls. One of the main fishes used in the production of fish balls in Thailand is Pla krai (Chitala ornata).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Curry fish balls & Temple Street, Hong Kong". 21 October 2007. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Street Fish Balls From The Factory". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Hung Wai Sum,2001,《大城市小人物──小販》
  4. ^ Man, Joyce "Aberdeen's best fish ball shop to close" CNN Go. 24 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012
  5. ^ "Traditional Fish Balls (Hardship in Fish Supplies)". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  6. ^ 《50經典小吃》刊於2003/01/10《飲食男女》
  7. ^ "Fish Ball Price in Tai Wai increased sharply". Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "General wholesale price of fish ball". Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "Jinwei in Mong Kok". Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "蠱惑魚蛋檔". Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "Expensive rent in Causeway Bay". Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  12. ^ "年宵檔天價$51萬成交 (2012)". Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  13. ^ "Sell 70,000 fish balls to break-even". Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "First Fish Ball Vending machine". Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "Traditional Way in Making Fish Balls". Retrieved 18 December 2012. 

External links[edit]