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!

thai-style fish cakes on a bed of salad

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links.

Why We Love This Recipe for Thai Fish Cakes

If you’re anything like me, fish cakes speak for themselves. However, this recipe in particular was inspired by a recent invitation to the restaurant Pok Pok by JJ Goode, 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.

I wanted to come up with my own recipe to share with you inspired by the meal we had. One of the 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 with strips of fresh white turmeric root and Betel leaf in it!

Although I wanted to replicate it at home, to find all of the ingredients to make it–dare I say, authentic–would be a multi-day challenge of ingredient sourcing. Instead, I tried to take inspiration from the flavor balance and contrast and made these Thai fish cakes and the below herbal salad with ingredients I could buy right here.

Once you’ve tried these Thai fish cakes, I’d recommend my recipe for Lemon Caper Salmon Cakes as well. They’re no harder to make and equally as delicious, I promise!

These Thai Fish Cakes with Herbal Salad are great with steamed rice on the side for a 40 minute weeknight dinner.

Key Ingredients for This Recipe

Kaffir lime leaf

These special keffir lime leaves have a citrusy flavor and are more brighter than bay leaves. They help break up creamier flavors such as yogurt and coconut in Asian-style cuisine. If you don’t have access to these, substitute with 1 teaspoon lime zest. Although less similar, you can also use lemon zest.

Romaine or Napa cabbage

This is the main base of the salad. What I love about both of these is they’re crisp and crunchy, which works well with the softness and butteriness of the fish cakes. Nappa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage that’s used frequently in East Asian cuisine, making it perfect for this dish.

Galangal

Galangal is a root closely related to both ginger and turmeric. Unlike ginger, which has a strong and peppery flavor, galangal has more coconut and citrus flavor. It’s most often used in Asian-style cooking and when cooking seafood. Find it in the produce department with the ginger root. If you can’t find it, you can substitute 1 teaspoon grated galangal for 2 teaspoons grated ginger root.

Thai bird chilis

Ideally, this recipe would be made with Thai bird chilis which are small red chilis with an intense spicy kick. They rate a 90,000 on the scoville scale. If you cannot find them, look for habanero or Scotch bonnet, both of which are slightly spicier than Thai chilis, so add to taste. Discard the stem and mince the chilis and seeds finely. Keep leftover chilis in a ziplock bag in the freezer up to 6 months. 

Thai fish sauce

This has a very specific flavor and unlike its counterpart, Vietnamese fish sauce, Thai fish sauce is fairly salty and pungent. There is a clear fish flavor, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, you could swap it out for soy sauce, tamari, coconut aminos, mushroom broth, or Worcestershire sauce.

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 pound tilapia filet, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup (or brown sugar), divided
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 cup julienne radish
  • 1 cup loosely packed torn mixed basil leaves, cilantro and mint

Step by Step Instructions to Make These Thai Fish Cakes

Step 1: Assemble fish cakes

Place the tilapia in a food processor with cornstarch, lime leaf (or zest), two tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and galangal (or ginger). Pulse to combine then process until the mixture comes together as a sticky rough ‘dough’. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Form the fish mixture into 8 patties (1/4 cup each) with moist hands, and set on the prepared baking sheet.

Step 2: Cook fish cakes

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 until ready to serve. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil and cakes, adjusting heat as necessary.

Step 3: Make salad

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.

thai fish cakes from the side on a table with scallions

FAQs and Expert Tips

How to make these fish cakes ahead:

To make ahead, assemble the fish cakes but don’t cook. Place them in an airtight container with pieces of parchment paper placed in between each. Place in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze for 1-2 months.

What can you use instead of tilapia?

If you don’t have tilapia, you can use cod instead. Although also a mild white fish, cod has more of a creamy flavor and is flaky and firm. It’ll work just as well.

How do you keep fish cakes from falling apart?

Make sure that the mixture isn’t too dry. If the mixture seems dry and flaky, dampen it with 1 teaspoon of water at a time, as needed. You can also use an egg (or part of an egg).

Additional Recipes to Try

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

Print
Thai Fish Cakes with Herbal Salad | Healthy Seasonal Recipes only 222 calories

Thai-Style Fish Cakes with Herbal Salad

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Thai

Description

Thai inspired fish cakes with shredded salad with fresh herbs, only 222 calories.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Notes

Make Ahead:

To make ahead, assemble the fish cakes but don’t cook. Place them in an airtight container with pieces of parchment paper placed in between each. Place in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze for 1-2 months.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 cakes and 2 cups salad
  • Calories: 222
  • Fat: 11
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 23 g