So upon returning home, a little sad and more than a little skint, I spotted some basa fillets going cheap. It's not particularly environmentally friendly, given that they're from Vietnam, but they are sustainable. They're a white fish, and have a tendency to be a little tasteless so I packed them full of Thai aromatics in an attempt to liven them up a little.
The usual Thai fish cakes such as the ones you get at restaurants are made by processing white fish with red Thai curry paste and green beans, then deep fried. Since I don't have a food processor, I decided to do this the traditional way by using a pestle and mortar. The springiness of the cooked fishcakes comes from pounding the fish into a paste, so I did some limbering up and set about to work. The fish was chopped into small chunks and pounded around the mortar with a little cornflour. When I thought I got the right consistency, I set about to adding the flavourings, pounding and grinding as I went along.
The fishcakes could have perhaps benefitted from a few more minutes in the pestle and mortar as while they didn't have the same rubbery texture as onces made in a food processor, they were well flavoured and delicious. They were light and had a good kick to them. Coconut rice was a good accompaniment to them to make them into a whole and satisfying meal.
Thai-Style Fish Cakes with Cucumber & Peanut Dip
1 large basa fillet
1 stick of lemongrass, tender inner part only
1" piece of galangal
1 clove garlic
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 red chillis
3 sprigs of coriander, roots as well if possible
Juice of half a lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp cornflour
For the sauce:
5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp water
80gr caster sugar
25gr roasted peanuts, chopped roughly
1 red chilli
1 tsp fish sauce
Chop up the fish finely and pound in a pestle and mortar with the cornflour. Add the rest of the ingredients chopped finely and pound into a thick paste.
Meanwhile, deseed and dice the cucumber. In a saucepan, add the suagr and the vinegar and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the water and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, leave to cool, and add the cucumber, chilli and fish sauce.
Heat about an inch of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Shape the fish paste into patties with wet hands and carefully lay them in the oil. Fry for 3 - 4 minutes each side, depending on the thickness. Serve with coconut rice on a bed of Little Gem lettuce leaves, broad beans and sliced radishes with the dipping sauce on the side.