Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thai fish cakes, vegetarian style

Some years ago, I regularly received free mini magazines from the Nestle food company. I don't know how I got on their mailing list, but the magazines would arrive in my letterbox every month or two and I loved getting them. Thinking about it now, I also don't know why I stopped receiving them, and can't help but wish they still found their way to my letterbox today.

The magazines were, of course, really an advertising system. They talked about existing and new Nestle products, and provided recipes for things you could make with the Nestle range. I didn't mind. New products make me happy and I'll take recipe ideas in most forms.

One of the recipes I tucked away was for Sweet chilli Thai fish cakes. Of course, the recipe called for Nestle-owned Maggi sweet chilli sauce, as well as Maggi coconut milk powder. My version has never included coconut milk powder, for the simple reason that I never buy it, and has always involved the Trident brand of sweet chilli sauce, for the simple reason that I always buy that.

I may not have been the follow-the-recipe-exactly customer that Nestle was hoping for.

Nonetheless, my version of the Thai fish cakes became an occasional stand-by meal, and when Mr Bite entered the picture, I found that he enjoyed them too.

Prior to last year, I always made them with tuna and an egg, as per the ingredient list. Last year I found that commercial egg replacer works well instead of real egg. And last week I found that beans work well instead of tuna.

Very well in fact.

Even though I still eat fish sometimes, I do like to keep my intake occasional, and if there are vegetarian alternatives they are generally my first preference. I was thus quite delighted to discover that making these with tuna and with beans is easy (yet another two-way meal!), and the product is equally enjoyable both ways.

The sweet chilli and coriander (cilantro) flavours are part of what makes this recipe so appealing to me. The cakes are light and fresh, and can be served just with salad or with slightly denser sides; bread rolls, potato wedges, or even in wraps.

Thai fish cakes; tuna and vegetarian varieties
Adapted from a Nestle recipe for sweet chilli Thai fish cakes
Makes 16 - 20 cakes
Vegan if using the vegetarian ingredients and egg replacer

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 pieces slightly old bread, crusts removed and crumbled into crumbs (or ~1/4 cup + 1 tbsp commercial bread crumbs)
Egg replacer to the equivalent of 1 egg, or 1 egg 
1 celery stick, sliced
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp lemon rind or lemon juice
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
Pepper, to taste

For tuna: 425g can tuna in springwater, drained

For vegetarian: 425g can butter beans (or beans of choice), drained and roughly crushed

Oil spray for the pan

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain and mash roughly with a fork. Allow to cool slightly.

Add all ingredients except the tuna or beans to the potato. Mix well to combine. Add the tuna or beans. You can make half of each.

Refrigerate the mixture for an hour.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high heat and spray with oil spray. Use a spoon or your hands to roughly shape small patties, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly golden.

 (I tend to cook 3 - 4 patties in the pan at once, and then keep them warm in an oven that's been pre-heated to 100'C whilst I cook the rest.)

Vegetarian on the top; tuna at the bottom
These are fairly soft fish cakes, but you could make them crispier by using more oil and semi-frying them. I like them slightly soft, and the mixture of flavours allows for a slight sweetness that is perfectly offset by the hints of lemon and pepper, the coriander, and the chilli component of the sweet chilli sauce.

The bean version didn't taste identical to the tuna, of course, but the texture was remarkably similar. I didn't do a great job of crushing my beans (as evidenced by whole beans being visible in my cakes!) but that didn't seem to matter. The bean version was also lighter than the tuna cakes, and perhaps slightly less sweet.

Chickpeas or cannelloni beans would work well as alternative bean choices, and I only chose butter beans because I had the greatest number of tins of those in the pantry. I suspect I will be making these again quite a few times, so I should have opportunities to experiment with the full range of options.

Now, in other news - remember those bugs I inhaled when running on Wednesday? On Thursday, I developed a cough. On Friday, my lungs hurt. Over the last 24 hours, I've found my voice to stop working in any reliable manner. It seems I have a chest infection.

The idea of bugs in my lungs makes me very unhappy indeed and I am rather looking forward to completing my course of antibiotics so I can have some assurance that they are gone!

Have you hit on any good recipes from free recipe brochures or magazines?
Have you ever had problems result from inhaling or otherwise being attacked by flies or bugs?!


  1. One of my favourite choc chip cookie recipes comes from a nestle label.

    I like the sound of these fishcakes but am not keen on fresh coriander (though I have found I don't mind it cooked as much as when it is fresh) and we don't have sweet chilli sauce in the cupboard - it is a simpler recipe than a vegan fishcake I tried last year with tempeh and I love the omni and vegan options.

    That's terrible about the bugs and the chest infection - hope you will feel better soon - at least you can blog without a voice in working order :-)

    1. Interesting that you don't like corainder as I have always thought of our tastes as similar...although I don't really know where I got that from given the nature of our connection :) But you could easily swap for other herbs, even as simple as parsley.

      And thank you - I am also grateful for the things I can do without a voice at the moment!

  2. I just cooked a meal tonight using butter beans! How wonderful to receive recipes in the mail for free! I would love that. What a shame they stopped delivering them to you. Your fish cake recipe (vegetarian style) looks delicious. Great invention! xx

    1. I know! I would like more free things delivered to my letterbox! Nice coincidence that you had butter beans the other night too...hopefully an enjoyable dinner for you too :)

  3. Hope you are feeling much better soon - I do Thai fish cakes a lot and wonder if you could do them with tofu?

    1. Thanks Liz...and yes, tofu would be a great idea! I'm sure it would work very well texture wise, and would soak up all the flavours beautifully/

  4. Oh my god, the bugs?! You poor thing! And now I'm starting to believe all those jokes about swallowing a watermelon seed and growing watermelons inside as a result :S

    Also, I'm even worse with those free product-pushing recipe books. I get a perverse pleasure out of deliberately buying another company's products to make the recipes with :P

    1. Bahahaha :D That is a great approach.

      I have gotten a bit paranoid about swallowing things and germ-related things over the last few days. However, I'm pretty sure this isn't a normal result from bug encounters! One of those unusual but possible scenarios...

    2. Yes, like the time I got pregnant from climbing a tree. Some people think it's just an urban myth.... *shakes head sadly*

    3. You have no idea how hard I laughed when this appeared in my inbox :D

    4. Bahaha! I'm so glad. I clicked "publish" on that comment and then was all HANNAH YOU BE CRAY CRAY.

  5. Oh, gross about the bugs! I've had a few twilight bike rides which result in bugs in my face, mouth, nose, and ears, but never gotten sick as a result. I'll definitely be more careful now though!

    Those bean cakes look good. I wonder if a bit of seaweed in the mix would be good...

    1. Seaweed would definitely be good...very nice idea.

      Those twilight rides are the worst for bugs! I think it's ok if you swallow them though (horrid as that is), it's just breathing them that may not be recommended :p Although you probably knew that anyway, it's just a challenge at times to avoid bugs whilst getting air!

  6. I've never had these but it looks like something I would like- good to know!

    1. Great :) I hope you like them if you try them.

  7. Bugs in my lungs would not make me happy, either.
    I found a decent yogurt pancake recipe on the back of a yogurt container once, but usually I ignore recipes on food products!

    1. I suspect that is the sensible approach actually :)

  8. Hope you are feeling better now, who would have thought those little bugs could do so much harm! I like the sound of the bean cakes, the flavours are very appealing to me.

    1. Thanks Mel, they are some of my favourite flavours I think. And thanks re. the bugs! I'm quite bug aware now, that is for sure :P

  9. If it makes you feel better, you can't actually inhale bugs into your lungs. It would kill you to have anything other than air in there. Since bugs are a solid, they will go into your stomach as food, and digest and pass through as food. You may be sick from allergies or something else.

    1. Nope, you actually can! Doctor confirmed. Effectively anything you inhale rather than swallow will go into your lungs. Most things will be coughed up / spat out but bugs are small enough to creep past the defense mechanisms.


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