The miracle of fish butter Fish butter can be bought in wafers or made at home. It can be made into a variety of dishes, from fish loaves...
The miracle of fish butter
Fish butter can be bought in wafers or made at home. It can be made into a variety of dishes, from fish loaves to fish ball soup to fish tofu. [Photos provided to China Daily]
We eat fish everywhere in the world where there is water. Fishing is one of the first activities mastered by our hunter-gatherer ancestors; cooked fish is therefore an ancestral art.
I have eaten fish in many places, from east to west, and of all the ways to treat it, I prefer the Chinese. She is disarmingly honest.
In Western countries, the fish is cut into fillet well presented and stripped of its bones, so much so that it is no longer identifiable and you have to rely on the label to know what you are buying.
During my first time abroad as a college student, I suffered backwards culture shock when I was served fish at the boarding house. I couldn't believe it was fish. All the delicious gelatinous parts around the head and tail were nowhere to be found and the tender belly bits that my grandfather always put aside for me were missing.
Over time I got used to the convenience of fish fillets, but then I started to miss fish loaves, fish tofu, fish balls and fish crackers.
Likewise, over time, I discovered these fish products in the closest Chinatowns, and as part of frequent "hot pot" parties (Chinese fondue), I introduced my closest friends to the pleasure of tasting them.
I realized that these products were exclusively Chinese. All over China, entire market stalls are reserved for these delicacies concocted from pounded fish flesh.
Fish butter is used for garnishing vegetables such as green peppers, or incorporated into slices of bitter gourd that have been emptied from the inside, in eggplant sandwiches or in steamed tofu leaves. , or fries.
Fish butter can also be molded to produce large balls the size of ping-pong balls which are then shaped into steamed or shallow fried patties to extend shelf life.
Fresh fish butter is sometimes sold in wafers, ready to go. The stove mixes it with eggs or tofu and then steams it. The result is an easy dish enjoyed by young and old alike.
It is common to dip fish butter in boiling soup to add a simple but tasty note to the dishes served.
That's not all. The fish meat is also steamed, sliced and dried in the sun to make crunchy and crispy crackers. Some of these cookies are stronger and semi-dried before being rehydrated in a soup or stew.
When I was little, fish butter was made at home. The cheapest species of sea fish such as mackerel or sea bream were bought by the kilo. The fish were cut in half along the ridge and an essential tool was brought in: a tablespoon.
My grandmother gently scraped the net with the spoon to remove the skin and any ridges that had escaped at first glance. When her job was done, only the skin was left on the cutting board.
The fish flesh was then finely chopped. My grandmother would add a little tapioca starch to it and then start beating it all vigorously, always in the same direction. She would sprinkle the mixture with brine and only determine by touch when the fish butter was ready.
With wet hands, she shaped her meatballs and fish cakes before dipping them in brackish water to keep them in shape. His fish balls were always perfectly successful, tasty and so supple it was a pleasure to sink his teeth into them.
Nothing was ever lost. The bones were fried to make velvety fish broth, and the skin carefully air dried, dusted with flour and fried to produce a real treat.
By Pauline D. Loh (China Daily)