Spicy Deep-Fish Cakes

Fish being so readily available, only the imagination of the chef limits the variety of fish and seafood that may be enjoyed by Thais at home, in restaurants, and at the street stalls all over the country. And the Thais are very imaginative, as in this recipe: puréed fish is shaped into balls, patties and cakes, and make a popular offering at the ubiquitous street stalls.

I find that the Chinese chilli bean sauce works nicely in the purée, giving it a spicy kick. Freshly made, and brought forth sizzling from the wok, this makes a fine starter, especially when served with a green salad.


  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless white fish fillets, such as cod, sea bass or halibut
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 fresh kaffir lime leaves, shredded, or 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon chilli bean sauce
  • tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) groundnut (peanut) oil, for deep-frying


Remove the skin from the fish fillets and cut them into small pieces about 2.5 cm (1 in) square. Combine the fish, egg, pepper, lime leaves, chilli bean sauce and fish sauce in a food processor and blend the mixture until you have a smooth paste. If you are using an electric blender, pulse by turning the blender on and off until the mixture is well mixed, otherwise the paste will turn out rubbery.

Divide the fish mixture evenly into 10–12 portions. On a floured surface, shape into round flat patties about 7.5 cm (3 in) across and 2.5 cm (1 in) thick using a butter knife.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or a large wok until it is hot. Dust the fish cakes with flour, shaking off any excess. Deep-fry, a few at a time, for 3 minutes, until golden and crispy. If the oil gets too hot, turn the heat down slightly. Drain well on kitchen paper. Serve immediately, with a salad.