(Thai Fish Cakes)
The ubiquitous Thai fish cake, seen on menus up and down the UK, is seldom like the real thing. I’ve no problem with places saying that they’re serving “their take” on a Thai tod mun, or that their fish cake is Thai inspired. But if you’re going to do a “Thai fish cake”, please do it properly.
The texture should be springy and — dare I say it — almost rubbery.
Here’s my quick guide to getting it right which, I’m chuffed to say, has turned out to be one of the most popular canapés in Make Mine A Martini.
Makes 12–16 canapé size, or 6–8 normal size
250g firm white fish
2 heaped tablespoon good quality Thai red curry paste*
1 tablespoon green beans, sliced
1 tablespoon lime leaves, sliced finely**
1–2 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce), to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
oil for deep frying
For the dipping sauce:
a 2 inch piece of cucumber
1 tablespoon crushed unsalted peanuts (optional)
a pinch of salt
Put the fish, curry paste and egg into the food processor and whoosh — you want it to make a homogenised paste. Put into a bowl and stir in the beans and the lime leaves and then add the sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of nam pla.
Heat a little oil at this point, and fry off a tiny piece to check the seasoning. Different curry pastes have different balances of flavour. Add more nam pla or sugar if you need to.
Now slap the mixture around the bowl a bit to aerate the mixture — you want Thai-style slightly puffy, springy textured cakes. At this stage you can cover and refrigerate the mixture- it my make handling easier! You can even do this the day before.
Make the sauce by heating the vinegar and the sugar in a small pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Let it bubble a bit just to thicken it slightly. Take off the heat and let it cool.
Peel the cucumber and cut it lengthways into four then slice it. Peel the carrot and quarter that and then slice it. Slice the shallot thinly. Add these to the vinegar/sugar mixture, along with the peanuts (if you’re using them).
Now wet your hands slightly, and form the fish paste into flattish patties: you chose the size! You can have them as big as a plate or tiny bite-sized.
Heat the oil for deep frying over a medium heat and fry the fish cakes until puffy and brown. Transfer them onto paper towel as you go, then eat them straight away with the dipping sauce on the side.
* TIPS: I recommend Nittaya or Mae Ploy brand pastes if you’re not making your own.
** If you roll the lime leaves up tightly then slice across you will get lovely thin slithers.