Fish balls probably won't become as popular in the U.S. as egg rolls and pork fried rice. One thing is that most of the time, fish balls don't even taste like fish as the name would suggest. They sort of taste like um... the solidified version of finely ground fish meat. I know what you're thinking that this couldn't possibly be delicious, but in fact this is one of the most popular type of street food throughout south east Asia. You often find it in soups or in skewers that's then served with some sort of dipping sauce. Sometimes you see them stewed or braised in curry broth to impart curry flavor to the fish ball. It's one of those very Asian things that'll probably stay very Asian for years to come. And amongst all these fish balls, there's one type that's different than the rest, one that stands out because it comes with a pork filling. Everything tastes better with a filling.
Fuzhou fish balls are different than regular fish balls because they contain a meaty filling in the middle. Fuzhou is a province in south east China. Actually, my grandfather was from the Fuzhou. He must have passed on his appreciate of Fuzhou fish balls to my father, who then passed it onto me. I'm pretty fond of these things, but when you grow up in the middle of America, it's pretty difficult to find fuzhou fish balls. Nowadays, it's simple, just walk down Eldridge Street and you see Fuzhou places everywhere. Most of these handpulled noodle places have fuzhou fish balls on the menu. It's usually pretty cheap too, something like $3 dollars for a bowl of 10 or so fish falls. The ones you see here are from Super Taste.
In between the hand-pulled noodle places and Fuzhou restaurants on Eldridge street, you find internet cafés, pirated dvd stores, and random barber shops. I can't but wonder whether my grandfather, if he was alive today, would want to chase the American dream here in New York like these immigrants. I wonder if he would approve of these fish balls.
Since my frame of reference is from eating frozen fuzhou fish balls, it's very difficult for me to declare what's good or bad about fuzhou fish balls. If I judge these by whether they possessed any fish taste? Then these would fail. But are fish balls supposed to taste like fish? In my experience, they hardly ever taste like anything. They really only taste like something when you dip it in a sauce. They are like vessels for dipping sauces.
The novelty of the thing kind of wore off after the 6th fish ball and it left me wanting to find a new place for fuzhou fish balls. I guess if you're not a fish ball person, this wouldn't transform you into one. I just happen to have fuzhou fish balls in my blood. I must seek out more of these things. I saw some other places with fish balls on Robyn and Kathy's blog. I've been to Sheng Wang and Lam Zhou for hand-pulled noodles, but not for fuzhou fish balls. Next week I shall report back with an update on my findings!