I go through phases where I cook a lot of Thai food. When I was growing up on Maui there was an INSANELY good Thai restaurant that I ate at whenever I had the chance. There are lots of Thai restaurants in NYC but I have not found one that I liked as much as the one at home. I started testing and collecting Thai recipes in college and I can now make almost everything that I would order at a Thai restaurant. I don’t make noodle stir fries like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew at home because I have never managed to figure out how to get the noodles just the right amount of cooked. So I have found restaurants to order those noodle dishes from.
I own three Thai cookbooks. The Original Thai Cookbook by Jennifer Brennan is a classic. Jennifer Brennan was a British Woman who was raised in India and then spent her life travelling around Asia studying and writing about Asian food for an English-speaking cooks who had not yet been introduced to the specific differences between the various cuisines of Asia. The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking by Mai Pham offers simple, tasty versions of the dishes that are popular in American Thai restaurants. Some of my very favourite recipes come from this book, but it is uneven in my opinion. I have only owned True Thai The Modern Art of Thai Cooking by Victor Sodsook for a few years but I have loved everything that I have made from it so far. The recipes are very elegant.
The Thai restaurant of my childhood made salmon cakes like these ones. Theirs included long beans, which is traditional I think. These fish cakes don’t have long beans in them, but I do sometimes like to serve them with green beans in yellow bean garlic sauce. They also good with simple green salad or my mother’s asian coleslaw.
My sister and I made the crab cakes as a recent experiment. They were good, but would have been better with fresh crab meat, which I just cannot afford right now. I use fresh salmon for the salmon cakes, which isn’t so cheap either, but I am adamant about only buying properly sourced, wild caught salmon. If you want to make these cakes with canned crab or salmon, remember to totally drain off any extra liquid and be prepared to add extra lime leaves and curry paste to bump up the flavour. I highly recommend using home-made curry pastes. If you are using store bought paste, you might want to add a fresh chili pepper or two. I also use home-made mayonnaise, but store bought will work just fine.
I use store-bought Thai sweet chili sauce as a dipping sauce for these seafood cakes and I cannot recommend it enough. This was a staple condiment of my childhood. My mother used to bake chicken in it and it is the secret ingredient in her amazing crab dip. I think that it would also be a great dipping sauce for baked yam fries.
RED CURRY SALMON OR GREEN CURRY CRAB CAKES
adapted from “The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking” by Mai Pham
- 2 shallots minced
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced ( or the zest of one lime)
- 1 or 2 Tablespoons home-made curry paste (red for salmon or green for crab)
- 1 egg
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise (home-made if you like)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (or arrowroot starch)
- 1/4 lb raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, rinsed and finely minced
- 1 pound salmon fillet steamed, skinned, patted dry and flaked with a fork or 1 pound fresh lump crab meat
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) for dusting
- oil for pan frying
- Combine the shallots, lime leaves or zest, curry paste, egg, salt, sugar, mayonnaise, cornstarch and minced shrimp in a blender. I use a big bowl and a submersion blender. Process until just smooth.
- Fold in the Salmon or Crab and cilantro.
- Heat about 1/3 inch of oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.
- Form the dough into 8-12 patties, dust both sides of each patty with cornstarch.
- When the oil is moderately hot, fry the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are just done and golden brown.
- Drain on paper towels and serve warm with sweet chili sauce.