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- The phrase “Holy Mackerel” now has a completely new meaning for me.
That’s because for this recipe I decided to go way outside of my comfort zone and make fish paste from scratch from a whole mackerel. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the good news is that it worked and the results were delicious!
The really good news is that you don’t have to do this to make this recipe. You’ll just need to find a good Asian market and ask around for fish paste, which is normally in the frozen section.
Once you have that key ingredient, making these kaffir lime fish cakes is really simple.
Even though I don’t recommend it, I figured I would show you the photos from me making my own fish paste.
Basically, I filleted an entire mackerel, spooned out the raw flesh, chopped into a fine paste, and mixed that paste with salt, pepper, and cornstarch until it was a pasty, springy consistency.
This took me about 45 minutes, and the end results were okay, but not anything better than the store-bought version.
So my advice, again, would be to just hunt down the Asian style fish paste and use that!
While you’re at the Asian market, go ahead and pick up some real red curry paste. While you can normally find this in a grocery store, I find that the Asian markets have more choices and generally more flavorful varieties.
The version I used for this dish is Mae Ploy red curry paste. It’s really spicy and delicious and I highly recommend it.
The final ingredient that you’ll need from the Asian market is kaffir lime leaves. These are waxy leaves that have a ton of flavor in them. You can skip them for the fish cakes, but I think they add a lot to the recipe.
Once you have all your ingredients, add your fish paste to a large bowl or stand mixer and mix it until it’s nice and springy. Season it with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir in the curry paste, lime leaves, and chopped green beans.
Your batter should be slightly sticky and very wet.
These fish cakes are really spicy and very flavorful, although not fishy tasting at all.
To combat some of the heat, I recommend serving them with a light cucumber salad. This is just a mixture of sliced cucumbers, red peppers, carrots, and red onion tossed with some olive oil and rice wine vinegar.
Now you just need to fry the fish cakes!
I recommend frying these guys in a large high-walled skillet with about ½-1 inch of peanut or vegetable oil. As always, I recommend using a deep-fry thermometer to make sure your oil is the right temperature.
I also always recommend doing a test batch just to make sure the batter is well seasoned.
This was my test fish cake and I knew it was a success.
Once you have everything ready, you can fry your fish cakes in batches. Don’t crowd the pan and keep your oil hot. They should need about 3 minutes per side to cook through and turn nicely golden brown.
Let them drain briefly on a paper towel and then serve them with a dollop of hot sauce and the cucumber salad.
These only have a few ingredients, but some of them are probably new ones for most Americans.
If you have access to a decent market though, get adventurous and give these a shot!
Nick got a step closer to proving his universal philosophy that anything mixed with curry paste and fried will be very delicious. Be sure to check out his blog, Macheesmo, and follow him from his Tablespoon profile.
Thai Fish Cakes Recipe (Tod Man Pla)
Fried fish cakes make a great snack on their own dipped in either with a cucumber relish (recipe below) or sweet chili sauce or sriracha. Ground fish is spiced with fresh kaffir lime leaf and red curry paste and fried. You can make your own red curry paste (see below) or you may use ready-made. Serve as an appetizer or along with any rice-based meal.
Fish cakes are traditionally made in Thailand with a type of ocean fish known as featherback fish, but you may substitute any firm white-fleshed fish, such as cod. Fish cakes are also traditionally pounded by hand but a food processor can speed up the task, though the texture will not be quite the same.
Ingredients for Thai fried fish cakes
We will need white fish fillet, garlic, egg, fish sauce, Thai red curry paste, coconut palm sugar, ground white/black pepper, scallions, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro.
Which white fish is suitable for Thai fish cakes?
You can use any kind of white fish with a firm flesh to prepare Thai fish cakes. You can use fresh fillet or frozen fillet, I have tried both and either works beautifully.
Some fish variety that you can try include swai/dory, tilapia, catfish, sea bass, and cod.
When making meatballs, you want some fat to create juicy meatballs. The same is true when making fish cakes. Fishes with higher fat content fish in general will taste better, and that is one of the main reason why I love using swai/dory or catfish for Thai fish cakes.
(1) Place fish fillet, garlic, egg, fish sauce, Thai red curry paste, coconut palm sugar, and white pepper in a food processor. (2) Puree into a smooth paste. (3) Transfer fish paste into a mixing bowl, along with scallions, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro. (4) Stir until well mixed.
How to make Thai Fish Cake Recipe
To begin making the Thai Fish Cake recipe, make a paste of the fish fillets by placing it in a mixer jar till you reach a very fine minced texture. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Now add egg, garlic paste, salt, galangal paste, spring onions, coriander leaves, birds eye chillies, thai fish sauce, thai red curry paste, lime juice, paprika into the mixer jar and blend until smooth.
In a mixing bowl gently mix together this freshly ground paste with the fish paste.
Shape the fish cake mixture into small patties, by rolling them between your palms and slightly flattening them and lightly dust with cornflour. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat and fry the fish cakes until crisp and brown, turning every time to cook evenly.
Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot with a sweet chilli dip.
Serve Thai Fish Cake along with a hot cup of Masala Chai or Espresso Coffee for your tea time break.
You could also serve it as an appetizer along with a thai meal of Thai coconut garlic rice and Thai Style Mango Chicken Coconut Curry Recipe followed by a dessert of Tender Coconut Ice Cream Recipe
- Dip your hands in salted water, then use them to mash the fish filet against the side of a mixing bowl, until it becomes a sticky paste. This makes the fish chewy.
- Add the curry paste to the mashed fish and continue to beat for five minutes. Add the seasoning sauce, sliced beans, and kaffir lime leaves. Mix together. Shape the fish cake into small balls and flatten.
- Deep-fry the cakes over a low heat until they are golden. Remove from the oil and let drain. Serve with the vinegar-cucumber dipping sauce.
To make the dipping sauce
- Mix together the vinegar, salt, sugar, and chili pepper together. Heat until boiling, then let cool completely.
- Spoon into a serving dish over the sliced cucumbers. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro leaves.
Recipe © 2011 Wandee Culinary School
This recipe and image is used with permission from the Wandee Culinary School and comes from Thai Favorites to World Kitchen, available for purchase in our cookbook section (see cover illustration below).Preparing your own curry paste will give the best results for a really authentic and delicious thai curry. However, making your own paste is time consuming and not always possible. We recommend our ready-made Nittaya brand Red Curry Paste.
It's an excellent quick and simple alternative to preparing your own curry paste. It is the best prepared curry paste we have tried here at Temple of Thai and as a fellow curry lover we're sure you'll agree.