Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ah Ma's Teochew Shrimp Balls (makes about 60-64 balls)

shrimp balls
I grew up watching my grandmother and mother making these little balls using fish and shrimp and adding them into a steam boat on special occasions.  My grandmother is known to all her grandchildren as Ah Ma which means grandmother in Teochew, has made them the same way for many decades.  I remember she made these balls by mincing the shrimp or fish with a large cleaver.  First she finely chopped the shrimp or scraped the fish and then used the blade of cleaver to smash the meat a little at a time to turn it into a fine paste. The whole process seemed to be time consuming now that I have a food processor.  Ah Ma tells me that the old-fashioned way creates tastier and chewier balls.

One day while having our usual conversation I asked Ah Ma how she makes her delicious shrimp balls which is pronounced "heh ee" in Teochew. According to Ah Ma they are simple to make and her basic ingredients consist of shrimp, garlic, salt, and duck egg white. She believes duck egg is better than chicken egg for these balls. However, chicken eggs will do if duck eggs are not available.

Ah Ma's Teochew Shrimp Balls (makes about 60-64 balls)


2-lbs shrimp
1 duck egg white or 2 chicken egg white
4 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped finely
1/4-1/2 tsp salt


Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until all the ingredients are blended together into a paste.  Take a spoon and scoop some of the paste onto the base of our thumb and index finger.  Make a fist and squeeze the paste to form a little ball on top of your thumb and index finger. Use your thumb to perfect the ball.  Take the spoon and scoop this little ball from your hand and drop it into gently boiling broth for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the ball floats to the top. Once done scoop the balls out and reserve them in a bowl. Repeat until all the paste is gone. Once the balls are completely cooled, you may divide them into small bags and freeze them for future use.

headless shrimp
peeled shrimp
tofu and shrimp balls soup
Ah Ma giving thanks and praying to our ancestors for good health, 2009
(the steam boat is seen at the center of table)
*My mother makes her shrimp balls using a mixture of Maine shrimp and non-Maine shrimp to create chewier shrimp balls.  Maine shrimp and New Hampshire shrimp tend to make the balls too soft if used alone, probably due to their high water content.  My mother likes to make combination balls using ground pork and shrimp.  You can also make chicken balls or combination chicken and shrimp balls. Sometimes my mother deep fried the shrimp balls and this gave the balls a whole different texture. These balls freeze well.  My mother often makes a huge batch and freeze them in little bags for future use. 
*When my husband and I visited Hong Kong I noticed that a few street vendors were selling similar meat and seafood balls on skewers.  These balls were fried and coated with a mildly sweet glazed sauce.  These snacks were addicting and tasty.
*If you are Teochew nang and/or are interested in learning more about Teochew please check this link:  Gaginang.  You can sign in and be a member of Gaginang.

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