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My original idea of fish cakes with Thai style flavours – cause I wouldn’t dream of calling my production authentic – was appealing. Chunky fish, chunky spring onions, coarsely chopped coriander, the further away from mushy balls, the better. I chopped my ingredients all by hand, one at a time, and prepared them lovingly in little bowls. The Weather Man filleted the fish so it was not so neat to start off with, but you could still discern chunks amongst the mass of flesh brutally scraped off the bones.
I finely grated the ginger. I grated the garlic plus half my finger. I grated the damn palm sugar – no idea how else you are supposed to use it as it doesn’t seem to dissolve in hell or high water. I measured out the seasonings and stirred them together. I placed everything in a bowl - and there was no way I could make it gel together into fishcakes.
Chunky doesn’t work. At least part of the mix has to be minced or blended so there’s enough binding mass to keep things together. I ended up whizzing the lot in a blender; it turned into a sticky mass requiring breadcrumbs to coat it but the outcome was positive: delightful Thai style flavoured fishcakes.
I got carried away with the blender and ended up blitzing the cucumber dip ingredients into oblivion. It tasted lovely but looked a bit like sick. Don’t make my mistake; instead of laboriously chopping the fishcakes mix, process it to a paste. Focus your fine chopping skills on the dip instead.
thai fishcakesServings: 2Time: 30 minutes plus chilling
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5cm (2in) fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and white part roughly chopped
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 red chilies, deseeded and chopped
- ½ bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
- 250g-300g (10oz.) white fish fillets (e.g. haddock, pollock), skinned
- 3 tsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- zest grated from 1 lime
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp palm sugar (or caster sugar)
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tbsp. flour
- groundnut oil for frying
- For the cucumber dipping sauce:
- 1 tbsp. soft brown sugar
- 60ml ( ¼ cup) rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. groundnut oil
- 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 small unpeeled cucumber
- 1 small carrot
- 1 red chili, de-seeded
- 1 tbsp. roasted salted peanuts
1. To make the fishcakes, place the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, spring onions, chilies and coriander in a food processor or blender and whiz to a smooth paste. Add the fish, fish sauce, salt, lime zest and juice, palm sugar and egg and pulse to combine: don’t blitz it too smoothly but make sure there are no large chunks of fish. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour.
2. In the meantime make the dipping sauce: stir the sugar into the vinegar until dissolved and add the soy sauce, groundnut oil and grated ginger. Chop the cucumber, carrot, chili and peanuts very finely; if using a food processor, make sure it doesn’t turn everything into a pulp. Stir the vegetables into the bowl with the dressing.
3. To shape the fishcakes, prepare a shallow plate with the panko mix. Scoop a tablespoon of the mix at a time and put into the breadcrumbs dish; it will be very sticky so it could be tricky to shape the cakes with your hands. Turn each fishcake around in the panko to coat it, flatten to a patty and place on a clean plate. You can chill them again at this point if you’re not frying them immediately.
4. Otherwise, preheat a large skillet or frying pan with 2 tbsp. of groundnut oil. If you’re going to fry them in batches, place a baking tray in a warm oven (80C). Prepare another dish lined with scrunched up kitchen towels to drain the fishcakes.
5. When the oil is shimmering, fry the fishcakes for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer each batch to the paper towels to drain, and then into the oven to keep warm until you finish frying them all. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime quarters.