Thai Salmon Fish Cake Recipe with Som Tam

16 July, 2015

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Everybody loves a fish cake – and these pretty-on-the-plate Thai salmon fish cakes with spicy, refreshing Som Tam and a kicking dipping sauce are real crowd-pleasers, and make a perfect zingy dinner for the summer months.

My partner Jason and I recently taught our team of chefs how to make this dish as part of a recipe-development session we held in our Kings Cross Kitchen, so the photos are from this session, and this recipe a peek into some of the work we get up to at Bespoke.

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The following recipe makes 12 fish cakes, so should serve 4 people. Texture is everything with fish cakes, so be sure to follow the instructions and avoid over-blitzing in order to create the best possible. Most of these ingredients you can find at your local supermarket, but for items like betel leaves and tamarind water, a trip to an Asian supermarket will likely be in order!


For the Fish Cakes:
300g x fresh salmon fillet, skinned, blood line removed
1 x stalk lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and core finely chopped
1 x green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
25g x fresh coriander, stalks and all
Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
1 x tbsp Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
A little plain flour for coating
Vegetable oil for frying (not olive)
Green beans
Betel leaves for serving

For the Dipping Sauce:
1 x garlic clove, crushed
1 x tbsp Thai fish Sauce (Nam Pla)
2 x tbsp fresh lime juice
1 x tbsp water
1 x tsp palm sugar
½ green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Few drops of chilli oil (optional)
1 x tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 x tbsp mint, chopped
1 x tbsp spring onion, chopped

For the Som Tam:
1 x small raw green papaya
1.5 x tsp palm sugar
1 x clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 x small hot green chilli
5 x French beans, chopped
2 x tbsp unsalted peanuts
2 x tbsp dried shrimps
1 x tbsp fish sauce
3 x tbsp tamarind water
5 x cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 x limes, juice only
Handful coriander, roughly chopped


Making the Fish Cakes:
1.) Finely chop the chilli and lemongrass and place in the food mixer and then add the lime and coriander (the coriander can go in stalks and all and take a good blitzing!).
2.) Tear the salmon into fairly large strips, ensuring there are no bones. Add the salmon to the mixer with the Thai fish sauce and then gently pulse. Do not over mix otherwise you will end up with salmon mousse! You want a good, meaty texture. Make sure you add the fish cake ingredients in the right order, so that the right ingredients get chopped the finest.
3.) Scrape out into a bowl, cover and chill for an hour. This will keep for up to 6 hours, but will need a stir before shaping into cakes.


4.) When ready, divide the salmon mixture into 12, then roll into balls. Wetting your hands will make this easier. Press each ball flat to form a round cake, but don’t make them too thin or they will be rubbery.

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5.) Dip each cake in flour, shaking off the excess.
6.) Pour about 5mm of oil into a frying pan and heat until a nut of salmon mixture sizzles instantly as it is placed in the pan.
7.) Fry the cakes in batches for 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked and nicely brown. Drain on kitchen paper.


8.) Serve by scooping some Som Tam onto a betel leaf and topping with a fish cake and a squeeze of lime, alongside the dipping sauce. Enjoy!

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Making the Dipping Sauce:
1.) Mix all of the dipping sauce ingredients together and set aside. You can finely chop the ingredients ahead of time, but only add the liquids a maximum of 10 minutes before needed, or the fish sauce and lime juice will wilt the fresh herbs.
2.) You can adjust the amount of lime and sugar in the dipping sauce to your taste. Ideally, you’re looking for a hot, sweet and sour balance.

Making the Som Tam:
1.) Peel the papaya and finely shred it on a mandolin into long, thin shreds. Work your way around the fruit until you get to the core and seeds (which you should discard). If the slices are too long, cut them in half.
2.) Put the tamarind, palm sugar, peanuts and half of the shrimps into a mortar and lightly bash with the pestle.
3.) Add the garlic clove, fish sauce, rest of dried shrimps and tomatoes, and gently mix everything together in the pestle and mortar.
4.) Place the julienned papaya in a bowl. Add the contents of the pestle and mortar and mix all together with a fork.
5.) Plate the salad and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.

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