Crispy Fish Balls with Sweet and Spicy Sauce Recipe

Crispy Fish Balls with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Very popular throughout Southeast Asia, the perfect quick bite dunked into a piquant sauce. Serving fish balls on a bed of crispy bok choy elevates this humble street food into something special. Bok choy’s hint of spicy bitterness and its fast cooking properties is my stir-fry choice to go with.

Yield: 4 servings, about 16-20 fish balls, depending on the size

Time: 45 minutes


Fish Balls:

  • 1 lb (500 g) firm fleshed fish, like cod, salmon, tilapia, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red curry paste, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch, or more as needed
  • 4 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • zest of 1 dewaxed organic lime
  • 1 tsp fish sauce or to taste
  • extra salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Sweet and Spicy Sauce:

  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 5 Tbsp sugar or to taste
  • 5 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek or sriracha
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved into 1 Tbsp water


  • 5-6 baby bok choy, well rinsed and separated into leaves
  • 2 orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/2 inch (1,2 cm) slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions


Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chile paste consisting of crushed raw red chiles, red and green peppers, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, vinegar and a pinch each of sugar and salt. A flavorful condiment and ingredient in cooked foods. It tastes like you are cooking with fresh chiles – only better. Sambal Oelek is available in the Asian food section of supermarkets or Asian food stores. One tablespoon is roughly the equivalent of a chopped, small jalapeño. Sambal Oelek aficionados prepare their own of course.

Place fish, curry paste, cornstarch, red onion, beaten egg, lime zest and fish sauce in the food processor bowl. Process until a coarse fish paste has resulted. Transfer fish paste to a bowl. If the paste seems to loose or runny, add breadcrumbs by the tablespoon until paste seems dense enough to form balls. With your hands slightly wet roll paste into smooth sided globes. Place them on a plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Start by preparing the sauce. Add water, sugar, rice vinegar, rice wine, sambal oelek, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixed with water and continue cooking until sauce has slightly thickened. About 5 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust sweetness and spiciness to your palate. Sauce will continue to condense while cooling down. Let it cool completely. Makes about 1 cup (240 ml).

Preheat oven 350° F/175° C.

Remove fish balls from the fridge. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry one fish ball first, as a test. You might have to adjust the seasonings. Add as many fish balls the wok or pan can hold comfortably without touching. Cook turning often until fish balls are golden all over, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if fish balls are beginning to brown too quickly. Transfer fish balls to a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Bake them for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and keep it warm.

Let’s prepare the vegetables. Separate bok choy leaves and wash them thourougly to remove any dirt. Cut bok choy upper green part off the stalks and put them on separate paper towels to drain. If stalks are too big quarter them lenghtwise. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or deep frying pan over high heat. Add peppers and stir-fry until they are just softened, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove peppers from wok and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and bok choy stalks not the leaves. Cook them for about 5 minutes, or until stalks become somewhat translucid and slightly soft to touch. They should remain crunchy. Return peppers and the green leaves of the bok choi to the wok. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and green bok choi leaves are just wilted. Season with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, salt and pepper. Add the scallions and serve.

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