So yesterday I was preparing fishballs for a Chinese recipe post at Noodles and Rice, and I thought, this is easy, I’ll just use egg substitute for the egg white required and that will be that. Nope! The fishballs came apart as it was being cooked in the water, and so I kept adding other stuff to the fish mixture (more cornstarch, some oil, etc.) and though I could form the balls quite easily in my moist hands, they still kept on falling apart once they touched the cooking liquid. I tried to recall the various quenelle-type recipes I’ve made. A quenelle is just a fancy French name for forcemeat, which is basically ground up stuff (fish, meat, etc.) held together by some sort of binder (bread crumbs, egg, flour, etc.) and seasoned, then formed into patties, balls, egg-shaped ovals, etc. and cooked gently in a poaching liquid. I couldn’t go back to Julia Child’s recipe which requires eggs and cream. Even the bolinhos which was a hit last month is now out of the question — that one worked because the balls were fried, so it didn’t matter that they were a bit scraggly in places, not the result I’m looking for here. And most Chinese recipes for fishballs call for some egg or egg white to hold it together anyway. I thought I had finally come up with a brilliant solution when I decided to steam the fishballs instead, as you can see in the picture. But still no dice — when the fishballs cooked they still fell apart easily, and my hope for a firm but tender consistency, the hallmark of a great quenelle, crumbled along with the fish. With everyone hungry and waiting to eat, my solution was to open a can of salmon and saute it with some garlic, onions, and tomatoes (the basic Filipino “gisa/guisa”, similar to a Spanish sofrito or Portuguese refogado). The kids had chicken soup and rice. (sigh) Experimentation was put off for another day. Next time I’ll try this one Japanese recipe that doesn’t call for eggs or flour. I’ll post the recipe if I meet with success.

Do you have any ideas for making quenelles/fishballs without eggs, flour or dairy? If you do, I hope you’ll share.
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