Thai Fried Fish Cakes
1 lb (.454 kg) white-fleshed fish fillets
6 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into thin strips
3 tablespoon coconut milk
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste or 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
3 green onions, sliced
1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili, sliced or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chili
1/3 to 1/2 cucumber (to accompany cakes)
oil for high temp. frying
To SERVE: Thai sweet chili sauce, lime wedges, handful fresh coriander
Rinse fish and pat thoroughly dry (if using frozen, the fish will be more moist so be sure to dry it as well as you can). Cut into chunks and place in food processor or large food chopped.
In a cup, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, shrimp paste, chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, and brown sugar. Stir with a fork to combine, then pour into the processor over the fish.
Add remaining ingredients (kaffir lime leaf strips, green onion, galangal/ginger, garlic, and chili). Pulse to create a thick fish paste.
Picking up a small amount in your hand (about the size of a golf ball) pat the paste into a small cake and set on a clean plate. Note that traditional Thai fish cakes are small (about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1 inch thick) and not too thick. Tips: If your paste is too wet to easily form into cakes, add a little flour or breadcrumbs to the mix. As you continue making the cakes, it helps to rinse your hands every so often with cool water to prevent paste from sticking.
Set plate of cakes in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, prepare your pan for frying as well as your garnishes. Cut the cucumber length-wise, then dice up into small cubes and set aside. Pour oil into a small frying pan or wok (at least 1 inch deep).
Heat oil. When hot enough (a breadcrumb should sizzle and cook immediately when dropped in), gently place cakes in oil. Allow to fry 30 seconds to 1 minute before turning, gently lifting cakes from the bottom of the pan (they may stick a little). Fry until golden-brown and drain on paper towel.
Serve fish cakes immediately with the chopped cucumber and Thai sweet chili sauce drizzled over. Top with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice just before eating. Excellent like this, or served with rice for a main course dish. ENJOY!
Make Ahead Tip: You can make the fish paste up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and set in the refrigerator, then form into cakes and fry.
The Culinary Chronicles and all Photography by Nam Nguyen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.