Thai Street Food
When I think Thai street food I think of Pad Thai, satay, fresh fruit, sweet snacks, and of course, Thai Fish Cakes. And Thai Fish Cakes made with salmon? Bring on the healthy.
Thai vs American Fish Cakes
Thai Fish Cakes taste nothing like the fish cakes we’re used to here in the USA.
You know the fish cakes I’m talking about. Fish of choice is mixed with egg, breadcrumbs, maybe some mayo and fish seasoning. These fish cakes, or patties as we called them, were a mainstay on many Friday night Lenten tables when I was a kid growing up. Delicious!
But I like the Thai version of fish cakes even better. They are a totally different take on fish cakes. Loaded with flavor and a whole lot less fat. Win-Win.
And they’re cute–shaped into small patties. Think sliders served without a bun. But a larger Thai salmon “burger” would be delicious, too.
Adding Healthy Omega-3s to My Diet
I’ve been trying to add more salmon to my diet since salmon is loaded with healthy Omega-3 fats that I know I don’t get enough of. But hubbie’s not a salmon fan. What to do?
I thought fish cakes would be a good compromise. And I decided the mixture of salmon with all of the other ingredients (also healthy) would probably cut the salmon taste.
So I began searching for a recipe using salmon and I found a great one for Thai Fish Cakes with Vegetable Ribbons. All of the ingredients sounded amazing.
Gluten Free Fish Cakes
With no added breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs, Thai fish cakes can easily be gluten free. All you have to check for is the brand of fish sauce. Most fish sauce sold at grocery stores are gluten free but check the label to be sure. If there’s no gluten in the fish sauce, you’re golden. Bring on the gluten-free fish cakes!
Living in rural Central Illinois limits my ability to easily find International produce and pantry items at the local grocery store. And after reading the original recipe, I knew plenty of substitutions would be necessary. Red chili peppers–maybe I can find locally, but my local grocery doesn’t carry fish sauce, Kaffir lime leaves, or fresh lemon grass.
Most of the other ingredients (brown sugar, cumin, salt, green onions, garlic, ginger, and limes) are easy to find and are usually in my pantry or fridge.
Because it’s summer, I used a Thai chili pepper from my garden to replace the red pepper in the recipe.
I used only ONE Thai chili pepper–half for the fish cake and half for the dipping so. Those little Thai chili peppers are SUPER HOT! If you don’t like spicy, use slightly less than half of the pepper for the dipping sauce. Only you know what your taste buds can handle. But please include some pepper. It REALLY makes the dipping sauce.
The rest of the ingredients were easy to find when I shopped out of town.
I’m happy to report my Kroger carries fresh lemon grass. They also had a variety of fresh spicy peppers, fish sauce that was gluten free, beautiful fresh salmon and all the other ingredients I needed.
Someday I might even find Kaffir lime leaves, which was in the original recipe I tried to follow. I’m sure the flavor would be amazing. In the meantime, I will be enjoying my own tasty version.
Not All fish sauce is the same
After researching why type of fish sauce to buy, I found out that not all fish sauce is the same. Much like soy sauce and wine, it seems you get what you pay for.
So even though I found fish sauce on the Kroger shelf, which would probably work just fine, I chose to order the “highly recommended” (according to several web sites) Red Boat Vietnamese Fish Sauce from Amazon.com. It was here lickety split. Thank you one-day shipping.
How to Make Thai-Inspired Salmon Fish Cakes
- Pull out your food processor from the back shelf of your pantry (or wherever you keep it). You can chop ingredients by hand but lots of extra time is needed for that.
- Add the chili, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, salt, cumin, and green onion to the bowl of the food processor.
- Pulse a few times until the ingredients are combined.
- Next add the cilantro and lemon juice to the bowl, and again pulse a few times to combine.
- Add the salmon to the bowl and pulse a few times until everything is combined.
- I used a kitchen tablespoon to form the mixture into small balls, about ping pong ball size.
- The fish cakes are placed on a plate and then popped into the fridge to rest for about 10 minutes. That helps keep the fish cakes from falling apart in the skillet when cooking.
How to make the dipping sauce
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lime juice.
- Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the fish sauce and the chopped chilies.
- Stir to combine.
- Set aside until ready to serve.
To cook the fish cakes
- In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Place the fish cakes in the pan.
- Using a small spatula, flatten each fish ball.
- Cook for approximately 1½ minutes on each side. The fish cakes will turn a golden brown.
- Drain on paper towel-lined plate.
- Serve with the Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce on the side or drizzle over the fish cakes.
The Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
The Thai Sweet Chili Dipping sauce is so yummy it should have its own post. It’s really that good!
The sauce is sweet yet spicy at the same time! Talk about tickling the taste buds and just perfect for the Thai Fish Cakes.
You might want to play with sugar and chili pepper to taste. I use no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar but you can add up to 4 teaspoons if you like it sweeter.
Also, I used half a Thai chili pepper. Feel free to use a little less if you don’t like it too spicy but promise me you’ll still use some. The chili pepper is what makes this sauce.
My Take on Thai Fish Cakes
I’m happy to say that my version of Thai Fish Cakes was a huge success. After a few zips and whirs through the food processor, dinner was served.
As for the fishy taste, I was right! The mixture of the salmon with all the other flavors cut the fishy salmon taste. Of course, you can always swap out another firm less fishy-tasting fish for this recipe (I’m thinking cod).
A big thank you to @kitchensanctuary.com for her original recipe. It was just what I was looking for.
Other Great Recipes
Thai-Inspired Salmon Fish Cakes
- 1/2 small green Thai chili, rough chopped, (stem removed but include the seeds)
- 1 lemongrass, rough chopped (remove the woody outer leaves and use the white stalk--see notes)
- 2 medium size cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger, peeled (about a 1-inch piece of ginger)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 green onions, rough chopped (use both white and green parts)
- 1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro
- Zest from 1 lime
- 2 boneless salmon fillets
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Chili Dipping Sauce
- 3-4 teaspoons sugar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/2 Thai chili pepper, finely chopped
- PLACE the chili, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, salt, cumin, and green onion in the bowl of a food processor. PULSE a few times until the ingredients are combined.
- ADD the cilantro and lime zest to the bowl. PULSE a few times to combine.
- ADD the salmon and PULSE a few times until everything is combined. (see notes)
- Using a spoon, form the mixture into small balls.
- PLACE them on a plate and REFRIGERATE for about 5-10 minutes.
- COMBINE the sugar and lime juice in a small bowl. STIR until the sugar dissolves.
- ADD in the fish sauce and chopped chili.
Cooking the Fish Cakes
- In a large skillet, HEAT oil over medium heat.
- PLACE the fish cakes in the pan.
- Using a small spatula, FLATTEN each fish ball.
- COOK for approximately 1½ minutes on each side, until fish cakes are golden brown.
- DRAIN on paper towel.
- SERVE with the dipping sauce on the side or drizzle over the fish cakes.
- You can use 2 teaspoons of lemongrass paste in place of fresh lemongrass.
- If you want the fish cakes to have more texture, only pulse the food processor a few times to combine the ingredients.