British fast food gone horribly wrong. You saunter into the nearest chippy for some fish and chips, only to discover you don't have four quid in your wallet. The (seemingly) best solution? Buy fish cakes and chips, which will run you a cheaper bill but will, long-term or otherwise, cost you your life. Essentially, fish cakes are like the hotdog wieners of the aquatic world - all the leftover bits-o-fish pressed into a patty shape, battered and fried in the same vat as all the other stuff. Wrap it up in newspaper, drown with salt and vinegar, and take a bite. Promptly throw away the fish cakes and just eat the chips. Voila: English meal.

In the States, there are other things that go by the name "fish cakes" and some of them actually taste good.

  1. Fish croquettes: These are precooked, usually white-fleshed fish, although you could use salmon, and the fish is mushed up with potatoes and maybe bread or cracker crumbs and egg, and formed into little round cakes, which are dredged in crumbs and fried. They're tasty and a good way to use up leftover unfried fish.
  2. Asian-style fish cake: This is actually just about the same as what wembley describes, except you probably wouldn't find it fried and sitting in a newspaper cone. It's ground, seasoned fish in sort of a meatball shape, or sometimes in a roll which you slice to reveal a pretty pink food coloring spiral. This kind of fish cake is usually found in big bowls of noodle soup, and can be kinda good.

What mneek calls a fish cake here I would include instead in the category of dreaded fish balls. (Dreaded by me, but popular with others.) The fish ball or cake is made, as my esteemed colleague says, from some kind of finely ground fish, and it smells fishy and has an unpleasant rubbery texture. Nevertheless, in Thailand these doughy little marvels are popular in soups or skewered, dipped in sauce, and grilled. It's the mouth feel of fish balls I object to.

There is, however, another kind of fish cake that is more like a patty, and is also popular Thai street food. It's made from ground fish mixed with red curry paste, finely chopped yard long green beans, a chiffonade of lime leaves, all bound together with egg, cornstarch, and flour. These too tend to have a rubbery texture, but are tasty enough not to put me off. The fish cakes are deep fried by street vendors and served with cucumber salad or sweet chilli sauce. Cheap, fattening, and delicious. What more could a peckish farang want?

Being a Recipe on the Frying of Crispy Salmon Croquettes, all On the Cheap for about Five Bucks, but Yet which Still Serves Impressive Helpings to Four, Or Thereabouts, and is Great With Beer.

Total prep time: 45 minutes.
Equipment: frying pan, tin opener, pot, water, stove, vegetable masher.


Ingredients (necessary, then recommended):
  1. To begin: heat oven & serving plates to 150 ° C, then make Mashed Potatoes to the tune of half a pot. Should you not know how this goes:
    • Boil a liter and half of water in a medium sized pot with a pinch of salt.
    • Grab six decent sized potatoes (no need to wash, just peel relatively clean), cut them in half, and throw them into the boiling water. Do not watch the boiling pot, go read the newspaper.
    • Go back in 15-20 min. Try to stick a fork all the way through each. If this works, that means they’re soft all the way through. Drain the water away (watch the steam).
    • Now some milk, maybe ½ cup, and some butter, 2tbl., should be added along with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re crazy, you can add some paprika or rosemary as well. Now mash! Mash! Add some more milk if they seem to dry, but don’t go overboard.
  2. Okay. Now open a can of salmon (213g), drain it and mash it into the potatoes. Now a tin of peas & carrots (10 oz), drain, but this time stir the veggies into the mixture. (Incidentally, you can lose the tinned vegetables entirely if you’d rather the scurvy, or serve them on the side).
  3. Next, in wide bowl, either get a cup or so or fine breadcrumbs, or flour, or finely crushed (like grains of sand) crackers or Corn Flakes.1 Take a bit of your potato stuff and make a cake about 3 inches wide and ½ inch thick. Then tip it into the crumbs, doing both sides. Then put it aside and do the rest of the mixture. When you’re almost done, heat some olive oil in a no-stick pan at medium heat.
  4. Finally, fry each battered patty until golden brown on each side, and when each round is done stick them in the lifestyle section of that newspaper you were reading eariler, or in some paper towel, to take the oil out, keep them hot in the oven at very low heat. When they’re all done, serve them up with ketchup, HP sauce or tartar sauce. Impress your pals. Make them go get more ale.

1Personally, I'd go with a half and half mix of the Corn Flakes and flour, but whatever you have on hand will work out fine. Now my grandmother also used to beat an egg or two and brush each patty lightly with the egg before it went into the pan. You can go to this advanced level if you feel compelled to truly awe your guests with your culinary ninja skills. A little finely chopped green onion also goes into the mix quite well.

How Peter Murphy makes fishcakes: a recipe adapted from track 14 of Mask, by Bauhaus, with commentary. If you would like to hear it during this cooking lesson, click here

 

Ingredients:

 

Directions:

Take a fish
And a potato

 

The directions at this stage appear at first glance to be unrelentingly ambiguous, but that is part of the beauty of this nifty little Friday-night recipe. You can take any kind of fish and pair it with any kind of potato, as long as the size ratios work (as will be described shortly). A red bliss potato, for example, pairs nicely with mahi mahi. Sweet potato is delicious with monkfish, and the rugged russet pairs up surprisingly well with the lushly sensual salmon.

 

Hold the fish
And the potato.

In your hand.
In your hand.

 

The repetition of "In your hand" is not to be ignored. It is crucially important not to hold the fish, nor the potato, much less both, between your toes.

 

Put the potato
In the fish
Make it digest it

Smash it up.
Smash it up.
Smash it up.
Smash it up.

 

Murphy's innovative approach to cooking with natural acids may borrow from Asian cuisine. The practice of "cooking" raw fish in acidic juices such as tamarind is well-known, less so the practice of force feeding a fish a raw potato in order to "cook" the potato in the fish in the best alchemical Aristotelian style. The quadrepitition of "smash it up" signifies that the chef should be prepared to smash to a point of exhaustion, pause, and repeat at least four times in order to acheive the creamy consistency that will lead to a fine fish cake.

 

This is how you make fishcakes.
This is how one makes fishcakes.
Smash it up.
Poke it up.

 

This passage of the recipe signifies the end of the basic recipe; what we have seen thus far is, most simply, how you make fishcakes, and how one makes fishcakes in general; by smashing and poking. Although, to be fair to the now understandably nonplussed home chef, it is true that the poking precedes the smashing.

 

Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.

 

This insouciant chant of delight is the appropriate pre-victual ritual.

The recipe leaves out the precise time and heat for cooking, which either suggests that the Murphy fishcake is to be enjoyed tartare, or that the standard baking time of 350 degrees for 20 minutes, a time guaranteed to bake anything which has been rendered to a goopy paste into a solid state, is in order.

 

Put it down the fish
Put it down the fish
Throw it against the wall
Stamp on the fish


The "it" in this case very likely refers to the potato, and constitutes a review of the recipe during the baking wait-time. Continue to chant:

 

Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.
Fishcakes.

 

Serving Suggestion:

Throw it on the wall.
Smash it on the wall.
Throw it on the wall.
Smash it on the wall.

Fishcakes!
Fishcakes!

 

 


 

For avalyn. And I can't believe legbagede didn't mention Peter Murphy at all in his writeup! gasp!

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