Thai fish cakes with cucumber pickle
This is a great street food dish and perfect to greet your guests with a drink at the beginning of a meal.
With this classic Thai street food dish it is important that the fish cakes are tender but not too soft. You can vary the types of fish and flavourings: use more herbs, add curry paste to increase the heat or use a combination of fish and crab meat or fish and prawn.
This recipe makes around 24 fish cakes to serve 6 people.
Preparation: 10 minutes
Chilling: 30 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes
500 g firm white fish fillets
(such as cod or ling)
2 garlic cloves
2 coriander roots, washed and chopped
4 shallots, finely sliced
4 long red chillies, halved, seeded and finely chopped
4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
5 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
60 g green beans, finely sliced
1 cucumber, finely sliced
juice of 1 lime
4 coriander sprigs, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
75 ml rice vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons toasted crushed peanuts
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- Mince the fish in a food processor or blender for a few seconds: a little texture is good, so it doesn’t have to be blended until completely fine.
- Pound the garlic, coriander roots, 1 of the shallots, 3 of the red chillies, ginger and ½ teaspoon salt using a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste. Add to a bowl with the minced fish, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and sliced green beans. Thoroughly mix everything together, kneading the mixture with your fingers.
- Knead the mixture following the instructions below.
- Lightly oil your hands and roll the mixture into 24 small balls and place them on an oiled tray. Transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- While the fish cakes are chilling, make the cucumber pickle. Warm the vinegar, sugar and salt together in a non-reactive saucepan to melt the sugar. Simmer for 1 minute, then leave to cool. When the vinegar is cool, add the cucumber, remaining shallots and chillies and stir gently. Add the lime juice, chopped coriander and toasted peanuts. Set aside until needed.
- When ready to fry the cakes, pat them into flat cakes about 5 cm wide and 1 cm thick. Fry the fish cakes following the instructions below. Drain the fish cakes on a paper towel and serve with the cucumber pickle.
How to make Thai fish cakes
Equipment: food processor, mortar and pestle, lightly oiled tray or plate, wok, vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Mince 500 g white fish fillets in a food processor or blender for a few seconds: a little texture is good so it doesn’t have to be completely fine.
- Pound 2 garlic cloves, 2 washed and chopped coriander roots, 1 finely sliced shallot, 3 seeded and finely chopped red chillies and a 4 cm piece of peeled and coarsely chopped ginger with ½ teaspoon salt, using a mortar and pestle, until you have a smooth paste.
- Transfer the paste to a bowl with the minced fish and add 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Mix everything together thoroughly, kneading the mixture with your fingers and really squeezing it together.
- Pick up a small handful of mixture and throw it firmly against the side of the bowl with a slap and a flick of the wrist. Repeat the process constantly for 3–4 minutes. This may sound funny but it makes the fish more tender as you are breaking down the proteins to tenderise the fish.
- Lightly oil your hands and roll the mixture into 24 balls. When you are ready to cook, pat the balls into flat cakes about 5 cm wide and 1 cm thick.
- Heat the oil to 200°C in a wok or deep-sided heavy-based pan. Fry the fishcakes in small batches for 2–3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with a dipping sauce.
You can keep the shaped fish cakes on an oiled tray in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours before cooking if you want to prepare them in advance.
About Tom Kime
As a chef and food consultant, Tom brings a fresh eye and experienced world view to his recipes. His contemporary method of balancing taste and flavour is quite unique, resulting in vibrant three-dimensional food that excites the palate with every mouthful. Tom cut his catering teeth in some of the most famous restaurants in London and Sydney. He has travelled to 42 countries to sample, discover and understand how to cook the world’s best street food. He worked at Le Pont de la Tour in London and then with Rick Stein at The Seafood restaurant in Cornwall. Tom worked at the River Café alongside Jamie Oliver (he cooked the food at Jamie’s wedding) and at Darley St Thai with David Thompson and Cicada with Peter Doyle in Sydney. Tom is the Group Executive Chef of Goodtime hospitality at East Village Sydney and at the West village in Petersham, Sydney.
Images and recipes from Thai Food Made Easy by Tom Kime (Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99).