Thursday, 26 November 2009

Fuzhou Fishball Soup @ Fuzhou Restaurant (Chinese), London

I love fishballs but unfortunately most of the ones you get in Blighty aren't that good. Perhaps I'm spoiled as I grew up on home-made fishballs that my mum and dad made from scratch - miles better than the bought-in manufactured efforts most Chinese eateries use.

Other than my parents' efforts, some of the best fishballs I've ever sampled were Fuzhou fishballs (Fuzhou yuwan). Fuzhou is the capital of Fujian province in Southeast China and their fishballs are rather special – bigger than normal with a juicy ground pork filling.

I've never been to Fujian but Fuzhou fishballs are widely available in parts of the world where the Fujianese settled. I first tried them in Singapore - look for the stall in the Maxwell Rd Food Centre - and I've also eaten them in Taipei.

In the West, they're quite common in New York where there is a 'Little Fuzhou' within Manhattan's Chinatown. However, I've never thought to order them in London until when I walked past the Fuzhou Restaurant on Lisle St the other day.

Now I must have walked past this place countless times but never thought to check it out. Truth be told, it doesn't look too alluring from the outside and its English language menu of anglicised Chinese dishes doesn't really appeal.

They have a Chinese language menu listing Fuzhou specialties but we all know the trouble I have with these. Fortunately I know the characters for fishball soup and yay it was on the menu. In my ropey Mandarin, I checked with the waiter whether these were the Fuzhou variant and double-yay they were.

The portion was generous with seven large fishballs in a clear broth for a mere £5 and they were definitely own-made but there was something not quite right about this dish. The pounded fish wasn't as springy as I'd like and the ground pork filling could have been a bit juicier.

I also didn't like the broth. I'm not sure what it should really taste like but I found the weird vinegary flavour too overpowering. Overall, the fishballs were OK but like many a dish you try on your travels, it never tastes quite the same at home.

Verdict: I feel crap at having a bit of a pop at Fuzhou Restaurant - the fishballs might not entirely be to my taste but this is a place that serves up giant portions of a regional delicacy not widely available in London for a fiver.

Other Stuff: Despite the number of Fujianese that toil away in Chinese kitchens across Britain, there are few places where you can sample their native cuisine. The only other place I've spotted is New Fuzhou on Gerrard St but alas they also hide their specials on the Chinese menu.


  1. Haha yeah I've walked past that place loads of times too. Gonna give it a miss after this since it's better at home.

  2. I think Jen Cafe might also serve these fishballs... I think. Maybe. Haven't tried them though!

  3. Wild Boar - thanks for dropping by. Whilst the fishballs weren't the greatest, I'd like to check out the other Fuzhou-style dishes here. If anyone out there has any tips on Fuzhou cuisine then please contact me.

    Su-Lin - Thanks for the tip. I'll keep my eyes open next time I walk past Jen Cafe - another place on my ever growing 'to-visit' list.....

  4. Jen Cafe does have the foochow fishballs and they are not too bad at all. the dumplings in chili oil are good too.

  5. Vix - thanks for dropping by! I've not tried the fishballs at Jen yet as I tend to go for their dumplings.