Thai Fish Cakes are a classic Thai street food and my favourite starter at Thai restaurants. It’s surprisingly easy to make at home – all you need is fish, red curry paste, egg, corn or rice flour and fish or soy sauce. Everything else is optional!
If I order an appetiser at a Thai restaurant, 9 times out of 10 it will be Thai Fish Cakes. They are hugely popular here in Australia. Kind of difficult to describe. The key flavouring is Red Curry Paste so the taste is very classic South East Asian. But it’s the texture that is rather unique. It sounds rather unappetising actually, when I tell people they are kind of spongey. Softer and less chunky texture than meatballs, and they hold together better.
And like household sponges (seriously cannot believe I’m comparing these to sponges….?), these Thai Fish Cakes hold moisture and suck up liquid from anything it comes into contact with, so when you bite into it, all that flavour squeezes out into your mouth.
Here’s a nice close up of inside the Thai Fish Cakes. Sponge-like, no?? (?Baby Hands Alert!)
I’m sure many people have ordered plenty of Thai Fish Cakes in their time but have never thought to make it at home. Truth be told, I didn’t go hunting for the recipe myself. I think I subconsciously just assumed it was one of “those recipes” that are difficult to make at home.
Then I stumbled across a recipe when I was killing time in a library, perked up instantly when I saw how easy it was to make – with no strange ingredients. Made it once, was instantly addicted, and over the years it has probably evolved because this is one of those recipes that I can now make on auto pilot so I had to actually measure the ingredients properly to share it with you!
This really is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Place fish, red curry paste, cilantro/coriander, egg, lime juice and fish sauce in a food processor, whizz to mince;
- Mix in rice or cornflour (cornstarch); and
- Drop mixture in skillet and cook.
See? Do you really need me to write out the whole recipe for you??? (Don’t worry, I did! I always do!)
Thai Fish Cakes are a classic Thai street food that you’ll find all over Thailand, from Bangkok to the popular tourist islands like Pukhet and Koh Samui (I really need to go back soon, I miss Thailand!!). For full disclosure, here are the 2 things I do differently to the real authentic Fish Cakes made in Thailand:
- Inclusion of rice flour – Truly authentic recipes are made with fish paste which is starchy fish (yes there is such thing!) that has been fermented and is a pretty smooth paste. This is then beaten for ages (i.e. 30 minutes by hand!) to activate the starch and this is the secret to beautifully bouncy, spongey fish cakes. However, in Western countries, the same texture is achieved by starting with fish fillets, minced them and mixing in either rice flour or cornflour (cornstarch). I am
95%97% sure that the majority of Thai restaurants I’ve been to here in Sydney make it this way. Truly authentic Thai restaurants like Long Grain and Spice I Am probably make it the proper way; and
- I don’t deep fry! In both Thailand and restaurants, Thai Fish Cakes are deep fried. I really believe that very little compromise is made by pan frying instead of deep frying!
If you try these, and I really hope you do, all it will take is one bite to be overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity. These really do taste just like what you get at Thai restaurants!
Happy weekend everyone! I hope it’s filled with lots of fun, laughter and plenty of great food! – Nagi x
- 1lb/500g white fish fillets, cut into chunks (anything will work)
- 2 tbsp red curry paste (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
- 3 tsp fish sauce (or sub with light soy sauce)
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup rice flour (or cornstarch / corn flour)
- 6 green beans, finely sliced (optional - it's used in authentic recipes)
- 4 - 6 tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, sun flower)
- Sweet chilli sauce
- Cilantro/coriander leaves
- Lime wedges
- Place fish, red curry paste, cilantro/coriander, fish sauce, lime and egg in a food processor. Whizz until the fish is minced.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir through rice flour and green beans.
- Fill a shallow dish with a bit of water (to wet the egg flip so it doesn't stick to the fish cakes).
- Heat enough oil in skillet over medium high heat to cover the base (3 - 4 tbsp)
- Place ¼ cup (I use an ice cream scoop - Note 2) of batter in the skillet and pat down to 1cm / 2/5" thick with a spatula dipped in water. I cook 4 to 5 at a time. Cook for 3 minutes until deep golden brown, then turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil into the skillet if required.
- Serve Thai Fish Cakes with Sweet Chilli Sauce, garnished with cilantro/coriander leaves and lime wedges on the side.
2. Ice cream scooper with a lever to scoop the batter out cleanly are perfect for making these. The standard size is ¼ cup.
3. The VERY traditional way fish cakes are made in Thailand is different in that rice flour is not used. Instead, to achieve the bouncy texture, fish paste (being ground starchy fish flesh) is whipped until smooth. This takes ages by hand (seriously - like 30 minutes) but it can also be done with a stand mixer. I don't know where to get fish paste here in Sydney so instead, I make this using fish fillets and replicate the spongey texture using rice flour and egg. Also traditionally these are deep fried but I really feel little is lost by pan frying instead!
4. What to serve with Thai Fish Cakes: These are typically served with a cucumber relish. I don't usually bother - and I didn't for these photos but I probably should have - because I usually serve these as an appetiser. Here is a recipe for a simple Thai cucumber relish: Bring to boil ¼ cup rice vinegar, ¾ tsp salt and 2 tbsp white sugar. Mix to dissolve sugar, then set aside to cool. Halve 3 cucumbers (about 20cm/8" long) then slice thinly. Place in the vinegar mixture with 2 finely sliced shallots, finely chopped red chilli (optional) and chopped coriander/cilantro (optional). Leave to pickle for 20 minutes, or overnight. Serve on the side - it's nice and refreshing, a good accompaniment with the fish cakes.
Nutrition per fish cake, assuming 12 fish cakes are made and 6 tbsp of oil is used.
Snippet from Life As Dozer. He basically has 4 modes: playing, sleeping, eating food or hoping for food. He lives a hard, hard life, doesn’t he?