Fish cakes in Thailand are often augmented with tapioca flour to make them sturdier; I opt for healthy, protein-rich quinoa instead. These make a great appetizer or can be served as a main course with noodles or rice. When preparing your quinoa for this recipe, use a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 12/3 cups water – this ensures your fish cakes don’t get soggy. Do try the dipping sauce – just a little gives the fish cakes a sweet-tangy bite.
1 1/4 lb sea bass, rockfish or other mild white fish, boned and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup cooked quinoa (TRY: NOW Foods Living NOW Certified Organic Whole Grain Quinoa)
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots, divided
3 tsp minced lemongrass
2 tsp finely minced lime leaf
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp sriracha
3 1/2 tsp fish sauce, divided
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
2 tbsp finely grated carrot
2 tbsp date sugar
Leaves from 1 head red or green leaf lettuce, core removed
2 tbsp safflower oil or coconut oil
To a food processor, add fish and pulse until chopped. (NOTE: Your largest piece should be about ¼ inch with some of the fish being very finely chopped and almost pastelike.) Transfer to a large bowl and add egg, quinoa, bell pepper, 3 tbsp shallots, lemongrass, lime leaf, garlic, sriracha, 1½ tsp fish sauce and pepper. Stir thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Form into 8 cakes, each about 3½ to 4 inches in diameter. (Packing the mixture into a measuring cup or ice cream scoop will help to form the cakes.) Chill for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare sauce: Combine remaining 1 tbsp shallots, vinegar, cucumber, carrot, sugar and remaining 2 tsp fish sauce and stir to dissolve the sugar. Arrange lettuce on a serving platter.
In a large nonstick skillet on medium, heat oil. Working in batches, add fish cakes to pan and cook until golden brown on the outside and opaque white in center, about 3½ minutes per side. Arrange on platter with lettuce. To eat, wrap each cake in a lettuce leaf, drizzle with a little dipping sauce and eat taco-style.
I first had this mildly spicy curry-smeared fish in the northern capital of Chiang Mai steamed in ingeniously folded banana leaf packets that also served as a takeaway container. The banana leaf is 100% natural and compostable and infuses the fish with a subtle herby flavor. Look for banana leaf at Asian and Latino markets in the freezer section, or wrap the fish in Swiss chard leaves instead.
Take a tip from Thai street vendors and have all your ingredients lined up next to the stove so you can work quickly and continue to move the ingredients around in the wok nonstop. Unsalted peanuts would make a crunchy topper to this dish for added texture.
All over Thailand, you’ll see cooks in makeshift sidewalk food carts working huge mortars and pestles, pounding together the ingredients for this spicy, refreshing salad. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, chop and smash the chiles and garlic with the side of a chef’s knife before mixing them with the remaining dressing ingredients. Traditionally, the papaya is cut into julienne threads with a large, sharp knife, but I prefer the safety of a nifty julienne peeler.
Replace the bacon in your BLT with lean tuna and you've got a CE-approved snack. We've also swapped out the bread for Boston lettuce for a sushi-inspired mini-meal - with each wrap packing a mere 52 calories!