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Fish Cakes – Super simple and Thai delish

September 7, 2009

Right, this recipe is a variation on one I found in Marie Clare’s Zest recipe book by Michelle Cranston.

I quite like that series, especially Michelle Cranston’s and Donna Hay’s books as these two chefs are Aussie and therefore in HK we have access to all the ingredients that they generally use.


500g fish, boned/skinned – I used a mix of Salmon (North Atlantic fresh) and Alaska pollock steaks/fillets (frozen at sea in the Bering Strait). I think that salmon works wonderfully well in toto, but to keep costs down I teamed it with something cheaper.  Any firm, meaty fish would work here.  I was a bit worried about the pollack when I smelt it as it’s got a much stronger fishy smell than the salmon, but it’s taste wasn’t overpowering at all, so that was a good find as pollock is a very sustainable fish apparently (and pretty local being from the Bering Sea).

2 lemongrass stalks, 4 kaffir lime leaves, 250ml water –  tear the kaffir leaves up a bit and bash the lemongrass stalks around with the butt of your knife so that all that fab scent and flavour starts to come out.

Throw them in a wide based pan with the water and bring to the boil.

Add the fish, turn down to a simmer, and cover.  Poach the fish for a scant 5 mins.  Don’t worry too much about it being cooked totally all the way through (although there is no reason it shouldn’t be), as you’re going to cook it again later.

Put the fish in a bowl to start cooling and break it up slightly to help it cool quicker.

Whilst the fish is cooling down a bit you need to gather together the following:

version 1:

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Small handful coriander leaves – finely chopped

2 tbs lemongrass – very finely chopped/or food processed

2 kaffir lime leaves – very finely shredded. This is optional as many people don’t like to find bits of tough leaf in their food, but the flavour is fabulous so I like to add them.

Chillies – use as much as you like but make sure you chop it very finely. I used to large red chillis deseeded and for me that’s not quite hot enough.  Next time I’ll fling in another small Birdseye for some added oomph.

1/2cup spring onions – finely chopped. Include as much of the green stems as possible for added colour

1 tbs fish sauce – don’t skimp on the fish sauce, you need it to bring the cakes to life as I’m not adding any other salt.

1/2 tsp white pepper – ground.  I’ve only recently been convinced of the use of white pepper. I used to associate it with disgusting school meals, but have come to appreciate it in Asian cooking, and it definitely has a very different taste to black pepper. Worth having it in the house.

After you have gathered all this together the fish should be cooler.  Break it up as finely as you like with a fork. My preference is for quite finely mashed up, as when it’s in bigger chunks it’s more difficult to keep the cakes from breaking up in the frying pan without overcooking them.

Anyway. After you’ve broken all the fish up throw in all the other ingredients and give it a good mix, take a taste to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.

2 eggs – beaten, they need to be medium to large eggs.

Finally add the eggs once you’re happy with the seasoning, and then if you have time put aside in the fridge for a good 30min-1hour to chill which is good for making the ingredients stick together, but more importantly the flavours will develop too.


Form the mix into the size of fishcake you would like.

Pour enough veggie oil into your frying pan to come up half way up your fish cakes. Heat the oil until it’s good an’ hot.  Not deep-fat frying hot, but immediately spitting if you flick some water in it (best to cook the cakes on a medium heat, so you may want to turn the oil down slightly once you put the cakes in).

Fry off the fish cakes, turning only once.  They should take 2-3mins on each side to go a lovely golden brown, but just use your judgement.

Place on kitchen towel to drain off excess oil.

Don’t be shy on the oil.  Shallow frying actually sucks more oil into the cakes, and is therefore less healthy, and oil saturated cakes is not really what we’re aiming for here.

Version 2:

The fishcakes above come out with having quite a “rustic” texture, and because the fish is in direct contact with the pan, you do end up with crunchy, overcooked bits of fish (which aren’t to everyone’s taste).

If you prefer a cake with a smoother texture then replace the 2 cups of breadcrumbs with mashed potato and chop the fish up finely rather than just breaking it up with a fork.  I would add 1.5 cups of mash for this much fish.

When I’m using mash, I also like to add more onion, and I’d add one very finely chopped shallot on top of the spring onions above, or 2-3 shallots in total if you can’t be faffing with lots of different ingredients.

When you are doing this version, you need to roll the fishcakes in fresh breadcrumbs before frying so that they stay together and the breadcrumbs protects the fish on the outside from going crunchy (which I suppose you could do in version 1 too!)

To serve, squeeze over some fresh lime juice and serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce and some lovely greens.  Bonza. My boyfriend reckons these are the best fish cakes he’s ever had, which is high praise indeed! And just look how easy they are to make! Super simple, Super delish.

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