Fish paste can be used in different cooking methods. Eg, boiling (fish ball or yu wat 鱼滑), steaming (with beancurd 老少平安, otak-otak）, stuffing (yong tau fu 酿豆腐）, pan-frying or deep-frying (patties, fish cakes).
My mother-in-law is an expert in making fish paste. She learnt the techniques by watching her neighbour doing it since she was a child. I enjoyed eating those dishes she made using homemade fish paste but never put an effort to learn the techniques. When I started my own cooking, I missed her homemade fish paste a lot because those commercial fish paste (in term of taste and texture) is nothing up to her standard. I tried to make it on my own but it was a failure. During her current visit, I had asked her to demonstrate the techniques in making "smooth & springy" fish paste.
STEPS-BY-STEPS ON MAKING "SMOOTH & SPRINGY" FISH PASTE:
- We used spanish mackerel fish (ikan tenggiri or kau yu, 鲛鱼）. For beginner, try to get a small size fish (approx 600g) as it is easy to handle. Choose one with some dots on the skin.
- Remove head and all the internal organs. Clean the fish and pat dry. Slice both side of the fish. Retain the fish bone to make fish stock in future.
- Use a spoon to scrape the flesh (include those flesh on the bones).
- This is the flesh from scrapping.
- Prepare 1 tsp salt
- Sprinkle 2/3 tsp salt and dash of white pepper powder on the flesh
- Add water to the remaining 1/3 tsp salt
- Use the back of the knife to chop the flesh evenly. If you notice any fish bones, remove it from the flesh. Otherwise don't blame me if anyone gets choked by the bones.
- Add the salted water during the chopping process. A little bit at a time. You will find that the flesh will become sticky and make the chopping getting harder. Continue to add the salted water as and when required.
- At this stage, my mother-in-law was tired and I took over. I used my hubby's "coffee presser" to do the chopping. You can either continue using the knife or a hand grinder.
- When the fish paste is evenly chopped, wet your hands, make a ball and start "throwing" the whole fish paste. HA HA! Time to "de-stress". But make sure you throw it right back to the target (chopping board) and not elsewhere. "Throwing" is the most critical part in achiving a "springy" fish paste. Do pay more attention! Don't laugh.
- Can you see "all the hidden stress"? (Just joking). Add 1 tbsp cornstarch and some water into the paste and knead until well combined.
- If you wet your hands and apply a layer of water on the paste, you will see that the texture is shiny, moisture, soft............ "the more you practice , the more you will know" - Advise from my mother-in-law.
- Divide the paste into a few portions (according to your personal preference), keep it in a container and store it in the freezer.
- Boil water and cook 2 tsbp fish paste to test the taste.
600g spanish mackerel (kau yu)
1 tsp salt
Dash of white pepper powder
1 tbsp constarch
water (iced or tap water) for mixing the paste
Other useful tips to note:
-Make sure the chopping board is not used for ginger before hand.
-It is better to chop the fish paste on the floor with some newspaper underneath.
-Add enough water to reach the consistency and softness you want. Fresh fish needs more water.
If you like fish paste, try these recipes:
- pan-fried patties
- stuffed taufu poks (beancurd puffs)
- steamed egg rolls with fish paste (1)
- steamed egg rolls with fish paste (2)
- steamed mashed beancurd and fish paste (1)
- steamed mashed beancurd and fish paste (2)