Thai fish cakes (Tod Man Pla)
Thai Fish Cakes or Tod Man Pla to give them their Thai name, are eaten as a snack food, or as a side dish to a larger meal, all over Thailand. Alone, they are tasty, not too fishy in flavour, with strong hints of coriander. However, the flavour is considerably enhanced when eaten with a sweet chilli dip, and this will always be offered as an accompaniment, even if purchased from a street vendor.
There are two real tricks to preparing perfect Thai Fish Cakes. The first of these tricks is to not overdo the ingredients which add the delicate flavour. Most of the ingredients used have a very strong flavour in their own right, adding too much of any of them will overpower the taste of the fish. Coriander, lime juice, onions, chilli and salt should all be added sparingly to avoid ruining the Thai Fish Cake mixture.
The second real trick to cooking Thai Fish Cakes has to do with the actual cooking stage. When frying the fish cakes, they should always be cooked in very hot oil. Never begin cooking until the oil has heated properly. Thai Fish Cakes need to be cooked quickly; the result will leave a fish cake that is slightly crisp on the outside, yet soft and light on the inside. There are several variations of the Thai Fish Cake. The most prolific of these are the slightly spicier version, which will add a small amount of Thai Red Curry Paste to the mix, making them a little hotter.
The second variation is created by adding far more coriander to the original mix, this produces a much more aromatic version of the Thai Fish Cake, which work very well with a slightly spicier chilli dip. A related dish is Tod Man Goong, or Shrimp Fish Cakes. These use the same basic recipe as Thai Fish Cakes but substitute the fish for shrimp. This variation is seldom found outside of a restaurant, and is considered by many people to be of a much finer flavour than the fish variety.
One final note for any people who feel that they would like to try making Thai Fish Cakes themselves. It is vitally important only to use fresh fish. Due to the overall small amount of fish which is actually used in the recipe, it is vital that the fresh fish taste is reproduced, a taste which frozen fish seldom exhibits.
- 500 grams white fish meat (cod, haddock, hake, etc) , minced or cut into chunks
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup Thai string beans, sliced fine
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 3 tablespoon fresh kaffir lime leaves, minced or chopped
- 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon of red curry paste
- 3 cups cooking oil for frying
- Chilli sauce for dipping
- Cut the fish into small pieces and then grind it up in a food processor, or pound it in a mortar and pestle until it's a paste.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil). For a more spicy taste, add a bit more red curry paste.
- Using your hands, knead the mixture until it’s sticky enough to mould it into a disc about 2 inches wide and ½ inch thick.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan at a medium or high heat. Add the fish cakes and fry until they are golden brown on both sides.
- Remove the fish cakes with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
- Serve with chilli sauce for seafood.