THAI FISH CAKES
(Tod Mun Pla)
10 Chinese long beans or 10 green beans
6 kaffir lime leaves (Fresh is best, then frozen, then dried)
¾ pound boneless fish fillets*
2½ tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
* = First choice is clown knifefish which is popular in Thailand. Should you not live there, your favorite fish will do nicely.
Makes 20 2″-fish cakes. Takes 40 minutes.
Thinly slice Chinese long beans. Finely slice kaffir lime leaves. Add fish to blender. Blend at medium setting until fish becomes a paste. Add fish paste, egg, red curry paste, and sugar to mixing bowl. Mix by hand until thoroughly blended. Add Chinese long beans and kaffir lime leaves. Mix again by hand until fish mix is completely blended.
Form fish into 1″ balls. Flatten them until they become 2″ pancakes. Add oil to pan. Heat oil with medium heat until a tiny bit of paste will dance in the oil. Carefully add pancakes, perhaps with spatula, to hot oil. Sauté at medium heat for 2 minutes or until the bottoms of the fish pancakes turn golden brown. Flip pancakes over and sauté for another 2 minutes or until the pancakes are golden brown all over. You might need to cook in batches. Goes well with cucumber relish or sweet Thai chili sauce and sliced cucumbers.
1) Thai fish cakes look a lot like bean bags. This is no accident. The shape of the modern beanbag is based on Thai fish cakes.
2) During the Vietnam War, Todd Pla, a pilot, was based in Thailand. Between bombing raids, he’d relax by watching locals play Toss Fish Cakes Into Holes In The Ground. Unfortunately, tossing perfectly good food away like that meant the Thais wouldn’t eat. The Thais grew ever thinner. What to do? A light bulb went on in Todd “The Man” Pla’s head. Why not put dry beans in a cloth sack and sow it up? The beanbag could be reused game after game. The beans in the bags would never go bad and the fish that would have gone in it could now be eaten. The grateful Thais renamed their fish cakes, Tod Mun Pla, which is close to Todd “The Man” Pla. Todd feels quite honored.