Fish cakes were invented in the 19th century in England to utilise leftover fish and mashed potato, subsequently coated with bread crumbs or batter then fried. In Europe, fish cakes are customarily made with cod, while in South East Asia, salmon, prawns, crab meat and white fish fillets are often used to make fish cakes. This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free and egg free.
Thai fish cakes are common street food in Thailand, they are very tasty and full of flavour compared to Western style fish cakes due to the aromatic herbs and spices used in making them. Thai fish cakes are not battered with bread crumbs thus allowing more flavour to get through. They are commonly made with mashed filleted fish, finely sliced snake (yardlong) beans or often called Chinese long beans, fish sauce, red curry paste and herbs like kaffir lime leaves plus eggs as binding agent. Then they are deep fried and served with sweet chilli sauce. Thai fish cakes have developed into a really well-liked dish in the whole world. For my gluten free recipe, I am using Salmon to give a very distinctive taste to the fish cakes, snake beans, spring onions and marinate with a spice paste. Then pan fried to perfection. I have also included crunchy salmon fish skin pieces for the fish cakes. Do not throw away the salmon skin as it has the most amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
There are some interesting facts about the remarkable life cycle of salmon, described as anadromous: born in fresh water, spend most of their adult life at sea then return to their natal river to spawn. Salmon eggs are laid in rivers or fresh water streams. The eggs will hatch into alevin or sac fry whereby they will retain the egg yolks for nutrients until yolks are fully absorbed. Then the alevin will rapidly develop into parr with vertical streaks s as disguise. The parr will continue to stay in their natal stream for one to three years in their natal stream until they are ready for the ocean journey. They will turn into smolts, juvenile salmons, with bright silvery colour. The smolts bodies will change and adapt themselves to live in salt water. They will group together in large number and swim out into the oceanic sea to feed and grow into adult salmons. Adult salmon will spend around one to four years at sea. Once they are sexually matured, they will change from the silvery blue colour to a darker colour. They will return predominantly to their native streams to spawn, travelling a treacherous journey of more than 1,400 km from the Pacific Ocean. They are now called kelts, mortality of the mature adults salmon are very high, they usually die within weeks of spawning. Read more about the fascinating life cycle of salmon here.
The Australian government definition of sustainable fish means “Fishing is sustainable when it can be conducted over the long term at an acceptable level of biological and economic productivity without leading to ecological changes that foreclose options for future generations”. Sustainability of wild caught seafood principally means commercial seafood that is purchased and consumed. Salmons are very low in mercury due to their smaller size and they consume plants. It is best to eat wild or organically farmed fish to prevent any added pesticides, fungicides and excessive omega-6 consumption (cause of inflammation) found in standard farmed fish. It is also common practice for salmon farmers to use colour dye called canthaxanthin, artificial colouring in the farmed fish food and the colour will transfer to the flesh to make the farmed pale looking fish look pinkish-orange. Most consumers are not aware of this as the colour dye is not required to be disclosed on the food label.
Salmon is a sustainable source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that is considered a nutritional phenomenon. It is also considered a superfood not only because of its omega-3 fatty acids content but also its excellent source of high quality lean protein with various vitamins and minerals. Salmons are not only rich in phosphorus and selenium, but also vitamins like A, B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 and D. Salmons also has moderate amounts of iodine, choline, potassium, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and biotin (vitamin H). The utmost valuable omega-3 fatty acids occur organically in oily fish as eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). They promote healthy brain and nerves functions, cardiovascular health, healthy eye, skin and nails and prevent joints inflammations. Consumption of oily fish may help prevent heart disease, helps maintain insulin lever, lower risks of several types of cancer like colon cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, breasts cancer and lymph or blood cancers. In addition, consumption of oily fish may lower risk of many chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, depression, asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
- Rice bran oil for pan frying
- 1.2 kg salmon fish fillets tail part, scaled, skin removed (reserve skin) and cut into 5 cm pieces
- 3 spring onions thinly sliced into 1cm lengthwise
- 16 snake beans thinly sliced into 1cm lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons gluten free fish sauce
- Sweet chilli sauce as a dipping sauce Lingham's
For the crunchy fish skin:
- Rice bran oil for pan frying
- 2 tablespoons gluten free corn maize starch plus some for coating the fish skins
For the Spice Paste:
- 3 Garlic cloves
- 1 small brown onion cut into wedges
- 3 long fresh red chillies deseeded and cut into 3cm pieces
- 2 small fresh red chillies deseeded optional
- 5 kaffir lime leaves stems removed and leaves finely sliced
- 3 cm piece fresh galangal peeled and finely sliced
- 5 cm piece fresh ginger peeled and finely sliced
- 3 cm piece fresh turmeric peeled and finely sliced or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 stem lemon grass white part only, finely sliced
- 2 teaspoon ground paprika
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the spice paste
- Add the ingredients for the spice paste into a food processor and blend until you get a smooth paste. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle if preferred.
For preparing the crunchy fish skin:
- Scrap off any leftover fish meat on the back of the fish skin with a small knife.
- Dry the fish skin with kitchen paper towel. Marinade the fish skin with salt and lightly coat with gluten free corn (maize) flour, shake off any excess flour.
- Heat up a non-stick frying pan with some rice bran oil, fry the fish skin for 2 minutes on each side on low to medium heat or until fish skin is lightly brown and crunchy.
- Cut the crunchy fish skins into 32 small pieces (about 3cm) with a scissors and set aside.
For the fish cakes:
- Place the salmon fish fillets into a food processor, and blend until you get a thick puree fish paste.
- Transfer to a large bowl and add in the spice paste, spring onions, snake beans, salt, ground white pepper, fish sauce and 2 tablespoons gluten free corn (maize) flour and combine and mix well. Using lightly greased hands roll the fish paste into 2 inch round balls and place them on a large baking tray and flatten the fish balls gently into patties with the palm of your hand.
- Heat up a non-stick frying pan, and pan fry the fish cakes for 2 minutes on each side or until fish cakes are lightly brown on medium heat. Fry the fish cakes in 4 batches. Change the oil when required and clean pan with kitchen paper towel.
- Place one cut crunchy fish skin into the top of each fish cake.
- Best served warm and with sweet chilli sauce.