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What Are the Best Tips for Making Fish Balls?

Amanda R. Bell
Amanda R. Bell

Fish balls, a popular part of Asian cuisine, come in a variety of different styles, from quick street food to high-end restaurant fare. No matter what style you are making, ensure that the fish that you use is finely flaked or even crushed into a paste so that it mixes well with the other ingredients and holds together. Prior to cooking the balls, let them rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so that they hold their shape. When cooking in liquid, make sure that the stock does not go above a high simmer, as a boil can cause the fish balls to fall apart, and, as with most fish dishes, try not to overcook anything.

Despite the fact that large chunks of fish may look prettier before you mix them with other ingredients, big pieces can make forming the balls almost impossible, and they will likely fall apart during the cooking process. Before you add other ingredients, make sure that you thoroughly flake the fish apart so it is in very small pieces. In some cases, you can grind the fish into a paste so that it holds together even better; however, some do not prefer this texture, and it may not work for all recipes.


Naturally delicate, fish balls tend to fall apart easily if not mixed, handled, or cooked properly. To prevent this problem, let them sit in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours prior to cooking them. This allows all of the ingredients to set and solidify slightly, which will help them to hold together better during the cooking process. Doing so also makes fish balls an ideal prepare-ahead appetizer: simply mix the ingredients and form the balls earlier in the day, and keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.

In many recipes, these balls are cooked as part of a soup or simmered in a flavorful stock before being removed and served alone. Although this is a popular method for cooking this type of recipe, it can also be the most problematic when it comes to the balls staying together. Boiling water or stock is a sure way to turn them into mush. To prevent this problem, never let the liquid reach above a simmer, as boiling is simply too harsh for delicate fish balls.

When making this dish, it can be easy to overcook the fish. Even though there are several other ingredients in many seafood balls, they are still primarily made from fish, which is often cooked before it is ever formed into a ball. Whether you are simmering, steaming, grilling, or frying this dish, make sure that you only cook the balls until they are set and heated through to a safe temperature. Cooking even longer can dry the fish balls out and ruin their texture, just as overcooking a single fish fillet will do the same.

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