Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thai Fried Fish Cakes (updated!)

It’s funny, some of the stuff kids will eat. They are notorious for being picky, and mine is no exception. For example, he will not eat cheese on a hamburger, but will devour a whole block of sharp cheddar during snack time if I let him. He’ll eat asparagus and green beans, but won’t touch peas. When his teacher asked him what his favorite foods are, he said broccoli, macaroni and cheese, chicken on a stick (chicken sate), sticky rice and (Thai) fishcakes. It made my Thai heart melt (and mouth water!).

Thai fried fish cakes with deluxe cucumber dipping sauce! Picture courtesy of Hubby.

If you haven't tried Thai fried fish cakes, you're missing out. They’re usually served as fancy appetizers here in the States, but in Thailand, they are a common street food. The vendor normally has a big wok filled with hot oil, so they can be fried fresh to order. They’re served in a plastic bag along with a little bag of dipping sauce and a long toothpick to eat them.

There’s nothing hard about making fishcakes at home, if you have a food processor. Frying them up is quick too. They probably only take about 3 minutes a batch (so I recommend having all the patties made before you start frying). This recipe makes quite a few cakes, perfect for serving at large gatherings. They can also be frozen after they are fried.

Thai Fishcakes
  • 2 lbs white fish cut into cubes (bones removed), such as tilapia, sole or cod
  • 3 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 2 tbs Thai curry paste (red is traditional, but green or yellow is fine)
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup Chinese green beans, finely sliced (regular green beans are fine too)
  • oil for deep frying
  • dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Throw the curry paste, lime leaves, and cilantro into a food processor and pulse until uniform. Add the fish, fish sauce and eggs and process until it forms a uniform, smooth mixture. There should not be any chunks of fish and the mixture will be sticky. Add the cornstarch and pulse until it is well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the green onions and green beans and mix well. Form into small patties. I usually use 1 tbs worth of mixture for each patty, which results in about 50 appetizer-sized cakes.

In a wok over medium-high heat, add enough oil to for deep-frying. When it’s hot (check by dropping a small piece of fish mixture in), add the fish patties. Don’t crowd them. Fry on one side until golden, then flip them. They should puff up and take on a nice brown color. Remove with a spider and drain on paper towels or cooling rack. Serve with dipping sauce.

Cucumber Relish
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • sambal oelek or chili-garlic sauce, to taste
  • ¼ cup seeded cucumber , chopped
  • 2 tbs shallot (preferably Asian), thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro
  • chopped peanuts (optional), to taste
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water and rice vinegar to a boil. Reduce the heat a little and simmer for about 5 minutes or until it starts to get a little thick. Turn off the heat, add the fish sauce and sambal oelek. Cool to room temperature then add the cucumber and onion.

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