thai-style fish cakes with herbal salad
Thai-style fish cakes with herbal salad made with Tilapia, cooked in coconut oil and served with a flavorful shredded salad with fresh lime, mint, cilantro and basil. It’s a flavor explosion!
If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be?
I don’t know if I ever really had a good answer for that one. But now I know what my answer would be. And I’ve had the meal.
Last week my husband and I went down to New York City for two nights. We met up with my Dad, my step mother, my step sister, my half brother and sister, my sister and brother in law… ie my big strange family. The occasion: THE MEAL.
This wasn’t just any MEAL though. Obvi.
We were invited to famed-uber-hip-wait-in-line-for-two-hours-Thai-restaurant Pok Pok New York by JJ Goode. Yeah, fainting. [When the email came in asking if we were interested in going, I was on the phone with my mom asking to babysit the girls faster than… you can say “you’ve got mail.” Not that I use AOL, but that’s all I could think of and you get the idea.]
Ok, so not all of you know what this means, so I will explain. JJGoode is a food writer and cookbook author. He is freakishly accomplished for his young age, having written for the New York Times and Gourmet among others. And now he is a New York Times best selling co-author of the awesome Pok Pok Cookbook. He co-authored it with award-winning chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker (who you should totally be following on instagram by the way.) JJ is friends with my Dad, so that’s how this all came to be. And now here I was invited to have dinner with him and my big strange family at the very restaurant that inspired the book. [Now you can faint with me!]
The Meal ~ Dinner at Pok Pok
Andy is out of the county, so JJ served as our tour guide for the evening. He arranged for a table, and for the only time in my life we walked like rock-stars right past the line and to our table. It started as soon as we took a sip of the water on the table, it is flavored with Pandon leaf, he explained. He also did all of the ordering, and walked us though the complexities of each dish, comparing and contrasting them and explaining the heritage of them. Some dishes were inspired by those from Northern Thailand and others from Central and so-on. Two minced meat dishes (Laap) were so vastly different in part because of the differences in the climates and availability of ingredients in the different parts of the country.
He explained how to pat a small chunk of sticky rice into a little disc so that you could grab a little bite of the highly seasoned dishes without a fork. We had Laap (savory minced meat) and Yam (salads) and pork neck and a whole lot more. When the server told us about the special, JJ’s eyes lit up and he literally giggled at the thought of what was to come. In the above collage you can see the special in the bottom right, it was a holiday goose platter and was came out in four bowls and platters. The whole meal was a true delight. I think my brain almost exploded a bit. It was SO MUCH FUN!
The Recipe ~ Thai-Style Fish Cakes with Herbal Salad
- So now that I am back in Vermont, I am all fired up about the flavors I experienced. I went out and got a copy of the Pok Pok cookbook, and I now see that so much of what I learned and tasted is right within the pages of the book. I love what Andy wrote about “the Absurdity of Authenticity” the maps and the wonderful photography. The cooking will come next!
- I wanted to come up with my own recipe to share with you inspired by this meal. One of the types of dishes we had at Pok Pok was called “herbal salad” which hails from the northern part of Thailand. It was sort of like papaya salad but it had strips of fresh white turmeric root and Betel leaf in it!
- To find all of the ingredients to make it… dare I say… authentic, would be a multi-day challenge of ingredient sourcing. Instead I took the intent for flavor balance and contrast with the fish cakes and made the below herbal salad with ingredients I could buy right here within a twenty minute drive of my house. Some even came in my CSA share this week.
- I also wanted to be sure to offer substitutions in case you can’t find some of the more obscure ones. If you have the book, there is a recipe for herbal salad on page 65 if you are interested in the more authentic version.
Thai inspired fish cakes with shredded salad with fresh herbs, only 222 calories.
- 1 pound tilapia filet, cut into large chunks
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 fresh kaffir lime leaf, minced or 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, divided
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup (or brown sugar), divided
- 1 tablespoon grated galangal, or 2 teaspoons grated ginger root
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh chili, preferably Thai bird chilis or ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
- 4 cups shredded Romaine or Napa cabbage
- 1 scallion, minced
- 1 cup julienne radish
- 1 cup loosely packed torn mixed basil leaves, cilantro and mint
- Place tilapia in a food processor with cornstarch lime leaf (or zest), two tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and galangal (or ginger) pulse and then process until the mixture comes together as a sticky rough ‘dough’. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Form fish mixture into 8 patties (1/4 cup each) with moist hands, and set on a baking sheet.
- Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 of the fish cakes and cook until browned on the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Carefully turn over and continue cooking, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning, until cooked through and the other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil and cakes, adjusting heat as necessary.
- Whisk the remaining 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, lime juice, canola oil and chili in a large bowl. Add Romaine (or Napa), scallion, radish and herbs and toss to coat. Divide salad among four plates top with the fish cakes and drizzle any remaining dressing from the bottom of the bowl over.
Saturated Fat: 5 grams, Fiber: 2 grams. Protein: 23 grams. Sodium: 935.
- Serving Size: 2 cakes and 2 cups salad
- Calories: 222
- Fat: 11
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