I love Thai fish cakes but often those served in New Zealand are nothing like those that can be enjoyed in Thailand. I’m sure many travellers would agree with me. Thai fish cakes are so quick and easy to prepare and cook, yet most of the local offerings are tasteless and more like rubber. Another quick dish not done justice here is Tom Yaam Goong — a traditional soup with prawns, chilli and fresh herbs. So I’m providing my favourite recipes for both and hopefully next time I go out to a Kiwi restaurant to enjoy Thai I will be served ‘my’ recipes.
I acquired my love for Thai food at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Cooking School in Bangkok — one of the better cooking schools in the world. Instruction includes a good introduction to Thai ingredients, preparation techniques, the making of traditional pastes, and cooking styles. Dishes are demonstrated then students given the opportunity to cook their own.
The basis of Thai food is 'paste.' Chillies, fish paste, shallots, coriander root, garlic and other ingredients are pounded to a paste in a stone mortar using a heavy pestle. Generally the paste is fried in oil then other ingredients added to make up the dish. However, there are some excellent spice pastes conveniently packaged for you and available at most supermarkets and Asian food stores.
THAI-STYLE FISH CAKES
I used Asian Home Gourmet spice paste for Thai Green Curry. These fish cakes can be served as a starter or a main.
500g skinned and boned white fish fillets eg tarakihi, gurnard or a mixture
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup bean sprouts
2-4 tablespoons Thai green curry paste or to taste
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1 cup coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons rice bran oil
Cut the fish fillets into chunks. Place all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor.
Whizz, until well mixed. Place in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Shape the mixture into 10 patties about 5cm in diameter .
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté the patties on medium-low, turning once, until golden and cooked about 4 minutes. Serves 4 as a main.
TOM YAAM GOONG
Spiced soup of prawns. Have everything prepared then combine and cook just before serving. Green peppercorns are available in jars from Asian food stores or some delis.
5 cups fish stock
7 green peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon each: diced coriander root, grated root ginger, chopped lemon grass
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 cups raw, shelled, deveined prawns
3-4 tablespoons each: lime juice, Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon diced red chilli or sambal oeleck
Garnish: 1/4 cup coriander leaves
6 small red chillies
8 basil leaves, sliced
Place the stock in a deep saucepan and bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, pound the peppercorns, garlic and coriander root to a paste. Add to the stock, ginger and lemon grass and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and prawns.
Season to taste with lime juice, fish sauce and diced chilli. Just before serving add the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more chillies or lime juice if required. Serves about 6 as part of the main course.
RED PORK CURRY
Red curries are generally milder than green.
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
3-4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
500g pork fillet, thinly sliced
400ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon each: fish sauce, palm or brown sugar
1 large kaffir line leaf, deveined and thinly shredded
Garnish: 1 red chilli, sliced
2 limes, quartered
Heat the oil and red curry paste in a frying pan or wok on low heat, until fragrant. Add the pork and stir-fry for 1 minute. Scoop out the pork to one side.
Slowly add the coconut milk, fish sauce, palm or brown sugar and kaffir lime leaf to the pan. Stir well then simmer for 2 minutes. Return the pork to the pan and simmer until tender, 2-3 minutes.
Serve garnished with the chilli and lime wedges on the side. Serves 4.
THAI DIPPING SAUCE
An excellent sauce for dipping raw or steamed vegetables.
3 loves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, diced
2 teaspoons palm or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
1-3 red chillies, seeded, if preferred
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until well combined. Pour into small bowls for dipping. Makes 1/2 cup.