What could be more different from the comforting, comfortable British fishcake than this zippy little thing, the Thai fish cake? It’s a complex amalgam of sweet, sour, hot; it’s going to zing you up as much as the British fishcake will calm you down. If you haven’t liked those rubbery blobs sold in Thai restaurants, then please do try these, they are lovely.
Thai fish cakes by Belinda Jeffery
750g snapper fillets, skinned and carefully boned. A pair of dedicated tweezers for this is best.
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Inner heart of a large stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
½ cup shredded coriander
¼ -½ finely shredded kaffir lime leaf, optional
¼ cup shredded basil
3 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons coconut cream
Chervil or coriander sprigs
Light olive or peanut oil for frying
Garnish: Lime wedges, mint leaves
Finely chop the fish. (Tempting as it is to do this in a food processor, don’t, because you will just end up with a mush that has no texture to it.) Mix in all the other ingredients except the herb sprigs and oil for frying. Don’t be surprised that the mixture is quite wet and sloppy – that’s fine, it just needs to hold together.
Form the mixture into 8 patties and put them on a sheet of baking paper. Press a sprig of chervil or coriander onto each one. You can cook them straight away or chill them, covered, at this stage for a few hours (they’re a easier to handle once they are chilled.)
When you’re ready to cook the fish cakes, heat a little oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the cakes for about 4 minutes on each side. Drain them briefly on paper towels, then transfer them to a platter.
If this were an Indian recipe I would be making curry paste from scratch, but as you will observe from my review of Thai Food by David Thompson I’ve lost heart when it comes to Thai.
The way you get the mixture to stick together without causing it to become the ghastly rubbery things generally sold in Thai restaurants is that you slap it from hand to hand. I don’t know how to describe this better, sorry. Pick some up in your hand, kind of slap it onto the other hand…I hope it is one of those things one understands by virtue of doing.