One of the best food discoveries I made travelling through Thailand was fish cakes. Lovely, light, fresh, crispy cakes with loads of flavor in one simple bite. These were a revelation, and something I was determined to master myself. One resort I stayed at in northern Thailand had a cocktail party for guests that featured a demonstration of fish cake making. I took notes. In an intensive cooking course, fish cakes where deconstructed, demonstrated and then we all went to work making our own, with hands-on help from the chef. I sampled fish cakes at the morning market it Chiang Mai (one of my very favorite eating experiences). I watched the stall vendor mix the cakes, form them and fry them. I took notes. I asked for tips on fish cake making at restaurants, and took notes. But when I got home, I was never able to duplicate the delicate treat myself. Maybe I used the wrong kind of fish, or got confused in converting weights. Or maybe I just don’t have the magic touch needed. Mine came out uncooked in the center, or not crispy on the outside, or just heavy and sodden. So I pretty much gave up.
But one day, faced with some leftover cooked shrimp, probably leftover from a party platter, and not much else in the fridge but some homemade curry paste, I decided to give the idea one more try. Using already cooked shrimp solved the problem of undercooked cakes, and the made-to-my taste curry paste put the flavor right where I wanted it. These simple shrimp cakes are know a staple for me – I whip them up whenever I need a little flavor boost to my regular meal rotation.
Simple Thai Shrimp Cakes
You can use purchased, jarred Thai green curry paste, available in the Asian section of most groceries, but taste it before adding to the shrimp cakes – some can be quite spicy. Add an amount that works for you.You will find Thai Sweet Chili Sauce in bottles as well.
8 ounces cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
1 Tablespoon homemade Thai Curry Paste, or purchased Thai green curry paste to taste
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons torn mint leaves
4 Tablespoons torn cilantro leaves
1 Tablespoon torn Thai basil leaves, optional or use regular basil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
canola oil for frying
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce for serving
Place all the ingredients in a food processor (I use the mini). Process into thick paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, until the paste comes together in a ball.
Scoop out the paste and form small patties, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. You should get about 8 cakes. Place the cakes on a plate lined with waxed paper until ready to use. The cakes can be refrigerated at this point for several hours.
When ready to serve, heat 2 – 3 Tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the cakes about 4 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy and warmed through.
Serve the cakes with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping.
Makes about 8 shrimp cakes