At the back of the cupboard, being saved for who knows when, was the tin of Norwegian fishballs I’d bought from the Christmas market over a year ago. It was, I think, mainly the tin that appealed to me. I’ve never been that much of a fan of quenelles, which is what these essentially are, but I am a fan of fish in tins. So it came back with me and has patiently sat there, waiting its moment of glory.
That moment, it turns out, was yesterday. Lunch and hunger were knocking at the door and I wanted something with a little pizazz, a little zing. Within 20 minutes I had it steaming in a large bowl in front of me. Everything was cobbled together from containers in the fridge, limp green remnants in the vegetable drawer and bags full of suspicious looking things in the drawer, as if I was cooking from a Victorian pharmaceutical emporium.
But the finished dish, based loosely on Korean fishcake soup (called ‘eomukguk’) was punchy with flavour and depth, steaming hot and comforting. On the side was a dipping sauce, which may seem strange with a soup, but the fish balls, soaking in the broth came alive with the soy, garlic, sesame, chilli and ginger spooned over the top on its journey from bowl to mouth.
For the broth, bring a pan full of water to the boil with a handful of dried anchovies and some kelp. Simmer it for ten minutes then add the fish balls (you could use tofu if you prefer, and make the broth with dried shiitake and kelp to make it vegetarian), some sliced pak choi, daikon or perhaps sweetheart cabbage, some sliced spring onion and soy sauce and simmer for ten more minutes.
Stir in equal amounts of miso and gochujang to taste and sprinkle over some sesame seeds and chilli flakes.
For the dipping sauce, mix together soy sauce, a little sesame oil, some sliced green chilli and spring onion, sesame seeds, a crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes.