Thai fish cakes.
Thai fish cakes.

First taste of Thai cuisine makes memory to last lifetime

I still remember the first time I tasted Thai food, in a restaurant in Sydney in the mid-80s. The flavours were fresh and exciting after decades of overly sweet, Westernised suburban Cantonese.

I don't recall other Asian offerings until much later, when I discovered Burmese, Cambodian and Vietnamese delights. I remain a huge fan.

I started making these delicious Thai fish cakes, or tod mun pla, not long after I tried them in that long-ago restaurant; and they are easy to make.

This recipe is based on the one I used back then; it was originally created by Mogens Bay Esbensen but it has evolved from there.


Serves 4


1 small red capsicum, seeded and pith removed, chopped; 3 finely chopped birds-eye chillies, seeds removed, divided; 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed; small piece fresh ginger, grated; 2 stalks fresh lemon grass (white section only), crushed and chopped; 1 tbsp fish sauce; 500g firm white fish fillets, skinned, boned and diced (try snapper, trevally or ling); 1/3 cup coconut cream; 1 large free-range egg; 125g snake beans; oil, for frying; 1 small lebanese cucumber, peeled and diced; 1 tbsp sugar; 2 tbsp white vinegar; 1 tbsp chopped spanish onion or green onion


Process capsicum, two of the chillies, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and fish sauce in a blender until a paste is formed. Add fish, coconut cream and egg to paste and process until smooth. Stir in finely sliced beans, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Place cucumber, sugar, remaining chilli and chopped onion in a small bowl and stir to combine; cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using an ice-cream scoop, form balls of the paste and flatten slightly. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Cook three or four at a time until golden, turning once. Keep warm while you cook the remainder. Serve immediately with pickled cucumber sauce.

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