Thai fish cakes bring back fond memories
I STILL remember the first time I tasted Thai food, in a restaurant in Sydney in the mid-80s. The flavours were fresh and exciting, after decades of overly sweet, Westernised suburban Cantonese. I don't recall other Asian offerings until much later, when I discovered Burmese, Cambodian and Vietnamese delights; I remain a huge fan.
It's not difficult to recreate those dishes now as even small supermarkets have an Asian section where you can buy the appropriate pastes, sauces and spices.
I started making these delicious Thai fish cakes, or tod mun pla, not long after I tried them in that long-ago restaurant. They are easy to make; try to find a firm, white-fleshed fish such as snapper, trevally or ling. Leave enough time to chill and firm the mixture thoroughly before cooking; a minimum of two hours, but I prefer overnight.
This recipe is based on the one I used back then; it was originally created by the late Mogens Bay Esbensen but it has evolved from there.
THAI FISH CAKES
1 small red capsicum, seeded and pith removed, chopped
3 finely chopped birds-eye chillis, seeds removed, divided
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
small piece fresh ginger, grated
2 stalks fresh lemon grass (white section only), crushed and chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
500g firm white fish fillets, skinned, boned and diced; try snapper, trevally or ling
1/3 cup coconut cream
1 large free-range egg
125g snake beans
oil, for frying
1 small Lebanese cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp chopped Spanish onion OR green onion
Process capsicum, two of the chillis, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and fish sauce in a blender or food processor until a paste is formed.
Add fish, coconut cream and egg to paste and process until smooth.
Stir in finely sliced beans, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Place cucumber, sugar, remaining chilli and chopped onion in a small bowl and stir to combine; cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Using an ice-cream scoop, form balls of the paste and flatten slightly. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Cook three or four at a time until golden, turning once. Keep warm while you cook the remainder.
Serve immediately with pickled cucumber sauce.