Wander around markets in Thailand and the eyes are bombarded with vibrant pyramids of exotic fruits and vegetables; the ears by the sizzling sounds from charcoal black woks and the relentless sing-song chatter; the skin glistens with the humidity of the climate and the nostrils are torn between the pungency of stacks of dried fish and the fragrance from bunches of lemon-grass.
The taste-buds get in on the act when you stumble across a street vendor whose sizzling wok is frying the golden treasures known as tod mun pla or Thai fish cakes.
These are just the bees knees when munched on the street, but they taste great when thrown together at home as part of a Thai meal or as a light lunch.
Preparing Thai fish cakes is as easy as falling off a log. Anyone who’s witnessed them being cooked in Thailand will have spotted that making them involves spooning a dollop of yellow paste from a container into hot, smoking oil and tod mun pla more or less cooks itself.
The only problem is there are all sorts of variations of recipes out there featuring slightly different ingredients.
After testing out a few, the one we like the most uses some basic South-East Asian ingredients to ensure an authentically Thai taste.
1 fillets of firm boneless white fish cut into chunks
1 tsp finely chopped lemon-grass
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 hot chillies (1 red, 1 green), finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp ground cilantro (coriander)
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
For two to four people (two people as a light lunch, four as a starter)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Preparing Thai Fish Cakes
Most of the work involved is in pulling the ingredients for Thai fish cakes together. Once that’s done all you have to do is throw the ingredients into a food processor and blend.
- Roughly chop the fish into chunks and place the fish in a food processor. Blend for a few seconds.
- Add the lemon-grass, ginger, turmeric, fish sauce, ground and fresh cilantro, chillies, beaten egg and 1 tbsp of plain flour.
- Blend until the tod mun pla mixture takes on the consistency of a thick, paste-like batter.
- If necessary, add more plain flour until you get the pasty consistency.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot.
- Using a dessert spoon, scoop out some of the mixture and plop it carefully into the hot oil, flattening it to a circular shape with the back of the spoon. Keep plopping until all the mixture is used (it will probably be necessary to fry the fish cakes in batches).
- Fry the cakes on both sides for two to three minutes each side until crisp and golden.
- Once both sides are golden, remove from the pan and dry on absorbent paper.
We normally serve the Thai fish cakes with a salad accompanied by a wedge of lemon wedge, soy sauce and a sweet and sour chilli dip. If we’re doing the full Thai thing we follow it with Thai green curry with fish.
Cooking Tip: For the fish use a firm white fish. Cod, hake, pollack and haddock are good choices.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+