Thanks to Miranti’s blog The High Heel Gourmet, I’ve been getting into homemade Thai from scratch. It is very different to my usual Italian stuff, but just as delicious in a completely different way. With the batch of thai red curry paste I made, I tried to make thai fish cakes using Miranti’s recipe. Her recipe is special as it doesn’t use any flour or eggs to bind the fish cakes, just fish. She describes how you are supposed to knead the fish until it obtains the texture of playdough. The first time I tried the fish cakes I used frozen panga fish fillets to make the fish paste, and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to that texture.
The resulting fish cakes didn’t stay together very well and ending up being small with a big ‘beard’ of crunchy fish. This is not how they are supposed to look. I am not sure to what extent this was caused by the wrong texture of the fish paste and/or by the oil temperature. They still tasted great, so I was encouraged to give it another try.
In the meantime, I have made my own fish paste successfully by using trout instead of panga. It was very easy!
For my next try I used store-bought fish paste from the Asian market, and fried them in only about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) of oil of about 160ºC/320ºF. The fish paste is fresh fish paste, not fermented, and is sold frozen.
Although the store-bought fish paste wasn’t like playdough, the fish cakes were perfect! The combination of the dipping sauce (thai sweet chilli sauce made from scratch, mixed with cucumber, crushed peanuts, and cilantro) and the fish cakes made with freshly made red curry paste, long beans, and chiffonaded kaffir lime leaves was absolutely divine. I will definitely make these again.
It may require some experimenting and practice to get these right, but once you do, it is actually not such a lot of work even though everything is made from scratch.
500 grams (1.1 lb) fresh fish paste (from an Asian market) or fresh water fish to make your own fish paste
2-4 Tbsp kaeng kua basic red curry paste
125 grams (4.5 oz) long beans or grean beans
2-3 Tbsp chiffonaded kaffir lime leaves
1 Tbsp fish sauce
oil for frying
120 ml (1/2 cup) vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
120 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/3 cup crushed peanuts
1/4 – 1/3 cup sliced cucumber
1-2 fresh red chillies, minced
chopped cilantro, to taste
Allow the mixture to firm up in the refrigerator while you finish the dipping sauce.
To fry the fish cakes, heat about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Heat the oil to 160ºC/320ºF. Make cakes using two spoons and lower them into the oil.
The sweet and sour and spicy dipping sauce (as well as the spiciness of the fish cakes) requires a hefty white wine with some sweetness and good acidity, like a Mosel riesling that is halbtrocken or feinherb (semi-dry) or even an auslese or spätlese that is not dry at all.
Peperonata is a classic Italian side dish with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It is good with light meats such as chicken, rabbit or even frog legs. It is simple to make, healthy and very tasty. Instead of eating it as a side, you could also serve peperonata as pasta sauce over penne rigate, or even as a topping for crostini.