These Thai style fish cakes with the zingy crunchy cucumber salad are a hot and spicy alternative to plain old fish cakes.
My desire to eat Cape Malay Pickled Fish and hot cross buns was dealt a cruel blow by the lack of suitable fish.
After visits to three different supermarkets I was unable to find any fresh firm white fish that could stand up to pickling. Something fishy indeed!
My preferred fish is snoek, or Thyrsites atun, a species of mackerel (according to Wikipaedia) found in the seas around the coastal areas of the Western Cape. Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere it is known as barracouta (no relation to barracuda) and is most often exported internationally under that name. It is an oily fish with a strong flavor and shiny skin with fine scales.
My father loved eating the snoek heads boiled with salt, pepper, onion, potato and a bay leaf. It is lovely smoked and used in paté or lightly fried in butter and served for breakfast with freshly baked bread, tomato and chutney.
A traditional Cape Malay recipe uses salted and dried snoek that has been rehydrated to make a dish called smoorsnoek. The rehydrated fish is flaked then sautéed with onions, cabbage, potatoes and chili. The closest recipe to how my mother used to make it is on a UK website of all places. Check and search for smoorsnoek.
My mother’s pickled fish was something to behold. Fried snoek that had been marinated in fish masala for no more than 30 minutes, then covered in a blanket of blanched onion rings, and pickled in a mixture of grape vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, all spice and cloves. Served with buttered spicy hot cross buns (now available throughout the year) it was one of our favorite treats at any time of the year.
Our neighbor told me earlier this year that in the ‘old days’ people made pickled fish after New Year to cleanse the system from the excesses of the festive season. He took pity on me and asked his wife to make pickled fish before I returned to Dubai. That was the last meal I enjoyed before leaving for the airport that day.
So, instead of pickled fish, I am experimenting with other types of fish and seafood recipes. I had thought of fish pie, but the amount of cream, potatoes or pastry involved, made me feel slightly queasy.
I settled on Thai fish cakes with pickled cucumber salad instead, and it was delicious and light.
Thai fish cakes with zingy cucumber salad
- 350 grams cod fillets (cut into chunks)
- 200 grams shrimps
- 60 ml fresh coriander leaves and stalks (approximately 4 tbsp)
- 1 lime (zest and juice)
- 10 ml sugar (approximately 2 tsp)
- 2 spring onions (very finely sliced into rounds (including the green parts))
- 30 ml Thai Red Curry Paste (approximately 2 tbsp)
- 1 green chilli
- 1 egg
- 30 ml fish sauce for seasoning (approximately 2 tbsp)
- Oil for frying
- 10 ml fish sauce
- 10 ml lime juice
- 10 ml fine granulated sugar
- 1 red chili sliced (or dried red chili flakes)
- 2 small cucumbers (thinly sliced)
- 1 spring onion (finely sliced)
- 15 ml finely chopped fresh mint (approximately 1 tablespoon)
- 15 ml finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (approximately 1 tablespoon)
- 60 ml chopped peanuts (approximately 1/4 cup)
- Place the fish, prawns, lime zest and juice, brown sugar, curry paste and egg in a blender and pulse until the texture is fine but not pureed.
- The egg will serve as a binder for the fish mixture.
- Add the finely chopped coriander and spring onions and mix thoroughly.
- Fry a small amount to test the seasoning before beginning to make the fish cakes. Add more chili, fish sauce or lime juice to taste.
- Use a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop to make balls of the same size and flatten slightly into disks.
- Place on a lined baking sheet and cover with clingwrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 60 minutes.
- Heat the oil until it begins to shimmer then fry the fish cakes for 1 minute on each side, or until cooked through.
- Combine the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Place the sliced cucumber, tomatoes, spring onion, mint and coriander in a shallow bowl and pour over the dressing, tossing lightly to coat the vegetables.
- Let this infuse for at least 5 minutes before serving to develop the flavors.
- Sprinkle over the roasted peanuts.
Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
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