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Yes, yes, I know. Thai fish cakes are supposed to be round and flat. No worries, you can still use this recipe to make them as round and flat as you like. That is exactly what I have been doing with umpteen varieties of fish in an attempt to determine the most suitable type of fish to make Thai fish cakes. It got a little repetitive, so to relieve the boredom instead of making round and flat fish cakes I started to make some fishcakes that were, well, just round. These also have the advantage of being grilled rather than deep-fried which some people may prefer.
In Thailand we use a variety of fish known as featherback to make fishcakes. In the West, you only ever see this fish available as frozen. Even if you could get hold of it, once it’s been frozen it just doesn’t work for fishcakes. You can also buy it as a paste in some Asian stores, however that is something not everyone has on their doorstep and for me anyway, it still doesn’t work as well as using fresh fish.
You can actually use almost any fish for Thai fish cakes and get the taste right. That is because the red curry paste that we use in Thai fish cakes will always overwhelm the more delicate taste of the fish. What you won’t be able to get with many varieties of fish is the right texture. It is the texture that is so important in Thai fish cakes; they have to have “bounce”, a firmness that slightly resists the bite. Recipes that say you can make Thai fish cakes with cod or salmon are ignoring that fact. This never works with saltwater fish. After numerous experiments, I have found that the fish the best suits the requirements for Thai fish cakes is Rainbow trout. Farmed, readily available, it provides the texture we require.
Why make your own fishcakes? A big problem with supermarket Thai fish cakes is that they have invariably been produced using an industrial version of a food processor. You can never get the correct texture using a food processor regardless of the fish that you use. This is something you do by hand in a mixing bowl. You can also use a kneading attachment in a food mixer. The taste will also be far superior to anything you can buy, hopefully that will be reason enough so let’s get started!
These are the ingredients you will need. This will make around 36 to 40 Thai fish cakes so adjust the quantities if you want to make more or less. Once cooked, they freeze well and can easily be reheated if you prefer to make a larger batch.
1 packet of Red Curry paste.
800 g Rainbow Trout fillets.
300 g Green beans
10g of Kaffir lime leaves
20 g Cornflour
10g Sea salt
Thai Sweet Basil for decoration (optional).
Vegetable Oil for frying.
Use a spoon to scrape the flesh away from the skin as shown in the picture below. Or not! It's easier to do this starting from the tail, I was having a bad day:-)
Place the fish scrapings in the bowl along with the sea salt and knead to a paste. I find the best way to do this is by hand, using plastic disposable gloves if available. You could also do it with a spatula or wooden spoon or the kneading attachment of a food mixer. Just avoid the food processor! If doing this by hand it will take about five minutes until the mixture starts to thicken and get sticky.
Add the eggs, cornflour and curry paste and mix together until thoroughly blended. Leave the mixture to stand whilst chopping the kaffir lime leaves and green beans.
Prepare the kaffir lime leaves by rolling several of them together and then chopping them finely into strips with a sharp knife as in the picture below.
Chop the green beans finely.
Add the kaffir lime leaves and the green beans to the fish mix.
Stir the mixture again until firmly blended and then store for two or more hours in the fridge. This will make the mixture easier to handle.
If you want to make flat fishcakes you can form them into round discs as shown below. Keep your hands moistened with a little water while doing this.
I make them in batches of about 6 at a time and cook them in hot oil for a few minutes, turning once before draining on kitchen paper. Don't overcrowd and cook too many at one time.
You can also form them into round balls and place them on skewers and cook under a medium hot grill brushing with oil from time to time.
Whether you’re making fish balls or fishcakes, you can make these ahead of time and then reheat in an oven at 180°C for about 6 to 8 minutes. In the picture below I have garnished the fishcakes with flash fried Thai sweet basil leaves. These are normally available in Waitrose if you want to do likewise. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce. I find Blue Dragon brand to be quite tasty. Depending on how hot you like your sweet chilli sauce they make an “Original” and a “Hot” version.