550 grams boneless skinless white fish filletsperch, flathead etc.
3 kaffir lime leaves
1-2 star anise
2 knobs ginger
2 stalks lemongrass
3 cloves Garlic
3 red birds eye chillis
palm sugarcan substitute with brown sugar
2 bunches coriander
1 bunch mint leaves
1 telegraph cucumber
1 tablespoon cashewsroasted, chopped
3 tablespoons Sesame Seeds
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper
I remember a couple of years back, a time in Sydney when virtually every single restaurant and cafe had fish cakes on their menu.
Unfortunately it was also the time when this beautiful Southeast Asian dish gained a very bad reputation. Fish cakes were served crumbed in bread crumbs, undercooked, overcooked and served with everything from ketchup tomato sauce to heated peanut butter as “Satay Sauce”. The reason for this I believe is people think it is an all too easy recipe, “mince some fish add a bit of this and that, a bit of commercial curry paste, deep fry them and dip in anything.” This obviously looks nothing like the symphony of flavours used in the authentic Thai versions. There are a myriad of ingredients and a lot of steps in preparing the ideal fish cake. All these steps and processes can seem labour intensive to some but once you make them this way you will see that it is a very enjoyable process and that the end result is well worth it.
- There are a lot of different ingredients so to keep yourself organized, prep the items as listed below and place them all in separate little bowls before continuing.
- In a small saucepan put enough water to just cover the base and bring to the boil.
- Place kaffir lime leaves and star anise into boiling water and remove from the heat.
- Finely Zest the outside of 2 of the limes.
- Peel the garlic cloves, clean the ginger and chop roughly.
- Cut the chillis in half, and finely slice the chillis.
- Clean excess dirt off the coriander, cut the roots off, pick all the leaves and chop the leaves finely.
- Pick all the leaves off the mint and chop finely.
- Bash the stalks of lemongrass with a kitchen mallet and remove the thick woody ends, approx 2 cm (1inch) from the base and the tips and discard. The remaining lemon grass, chop very finely.
- Grate a couple of table spoons of palm sugar.
- Chop the blanched kaffir lime leaves.
- In a mortar and pestle place the garlic, ginger, chilli seeds, coriander roots, 1/3rd of the coriander leaves, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, the palm sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Grind the ingredients together until a paste starts to develop. As you grind, spoon in a little of the star anise water.
- Note (if you do not have a mortar & pestle, a food processor can be used, however result will be better from the mortar and pestle).
- Once the paste has formed, pick out any overly fibrous or woody parts, discard and set the paste aside.
- Ensure all the bones have been removed from the fish and chop the meat roughly.
- Place the fish into your food processor, add a couple tablespoons of mint, sliced chilli, chopped cashews, lime zest, 1-2 tbsps of the paste, 2 tsp fish sauce, the juice of 2 limes, a touch of salt and pepper.
- Process on high until a minced texture is achieved.
- The mix should be nicely flecked with green, and red and bits of cashew visible.
- Roll the mixture into 2 cm (1 inch) balls, and press slightly flat and place in refrigerator.
- Peel and seed the cucumber, then chop very finely.
- Retain as much juice from the seeds as possible and discard the seeds.
- Place the chopped cucumber in a mixing bowl with the remaining chopped coriander leaves, add 1.5 tablespoons of mirin, a slight drizzle of sesame oil, the remaining chopped mint leaves, juice of 1/2 a lime, salt, pepper and mix together.
- Taste for seasoning and if a sweeter dip is desired a little palm sugar can be dissolved into the dip.
Cooking and Assembly
- Remove the fish cakes from the fridge, place a non stick pan on a medium flame and cover the base with oil.
- Brown the cakes on either side approx 2 minutes a side (be careful not to overcook and dry them out) and set aside to drain.
- Cut one in half to ensure it is cooked, if not they may require a few minutes in the oven.
- Arrange on the serving plate and garnish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.