The Best Thai Fish Cakes……. ?

Do you have a special foodie moment in your life? One which stands out from the crowd? Mine is eating freshly made Fish Cakes from a stall at the night market in Tradt, Thailand. As fast as the ladies could pat the mixture into patties, fry them and dish them out in clear plastic bags, they were sold and eaten.

Everytime I have Thai fish cakes I compare them to my famous Tradt ones. The nearest I’ve ever come to matching them is a Rick Stein recipe. It has the right balance of fish, classic Thai flavours and the all important chilli kick. Plus I like the addition of the green beans, for a bit of crunch.

I’ve used this recipe for years, and I use any cheapish white firm fish I can get, frozen is good too. It really doesn’t have to be the best cut or most expensive for these fish cakes, all I try to make sure is that it’s sustainably fished, But that’s my personal preference.

I’ve included the recipe for Red Curry Paste, but feel free to use shop bought if you don’t fancy making it yourself. If you do make it, it can be frozen very easily.

One thing I would recommend you do is to make the dipping sauce, it works superbly with the fish cakes – tangy vinegar with a kick of chilli.

I’ve used the quantities as Rick Stein uses in his recipe, but as I’ve made these for myself for years I kind of ignore the exact quantities and just go for a general feel and look. Either way they are delicious. The batch I just cooked made about 20 small fish cakes, which were well and truly scoffed!

Thai Fish Cakes

Ingredients ~

  • 450g / 1 lb ling or coley fillets, skinned and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs Red Curry paste
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf or 1 strip of lime zest finely shredded
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar
  • 40g / 1 1/2 oz french green beans thinly sliced into rounds
  • 150 ml / 5 fl oz oil

Sweet & Sour Cucumber Dipping Sauce

  • 50 ml / 2 floz white wine vinegar
  • 100 g / 4 oz caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbls water
  • 2 tsp Thai fish sauce (nom pia)
  • 50 g / 2 oz cucumber very finely diced
  • 25 g 1 oz carrot very finely diced
  • 25 g / 1 oz onion very finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, thinly sliced

Method ~

Dipping Sauce –

  • Gently heat the vinegar, sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved, boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, and cool
  • Stir in the cucumber, carrot, onion, fish sauce and chillies

Fish Cakes ~

  • Put the fish in a food processor with the fish sauce, curry paste, kaffir lime leaf, coriander, egg, sugar and a pinch of salt
  • Process into a fine and smooth paste
  • Divide the mixture into small balls, roll each one into a ball and then flatten into a disk .
  • Heat the oil in a large pan and when hot fry the fish cakes in batches until golden brown. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper
  • Serve with the dipping sauce

Fresh Red Curry Paste ~

Makes 75g / 3oz

  • 5 large red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh galangal or ginger
  • 1 tbls lemon grass
  • 3 tbls chopped garlic
  • 3 tbls roughly chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbls oil

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, add some water if needed.

It’s the first time in ages that I’ve made these without using some homegrown french beans and chillies stored in the freezer, alongside some locally caught fish; but they were still delicious. Thai fishcakes in the Alps, an antidote to the food of the Savoie, which at times, is sorely needed!

Phew, back on Terra Firma with savoury dishes 🙂 And the eagle eyed will notice there are only 12 fish cakes in the photo. Well spotted! We had to taste test the first batch 🙂


  • They look incredible. I adore Rick Stein, he’s particularly good because he’s travelled that area of the world extensively and has really gotten to know the culture and what certain dishes should taste like. I think he’s probably the most accurate guy to follow when cooking such things. I adore their colour by the way. I really should pick myself up a Rick Stein cookbook!

    • Agree with you on Rick Stein and his travelling, I always recommend his Far Eastern Odyssey, lots of classic and unusual recipes, and they work! If it’s Thai food David Thompson is the main man, but I like Rick’s style and recipes

  • These look delicious, Claire, and that dipping sauce sounds wonderful! Although not familiar with Rick Stein, if these exemplify his recipes, I really should check this guy out. Thanks for pointing me in his direction.

    • I couldn’t recommend him enough John. His recipes vary from very simple basics, to classic dishes from around the world. And he always gives you alternatives if you can’t find the exact fish or spice, He started out in Cornwall, and uses the best ingredients he can get. He does some classic Fish books, which I’ve worked my way through and then this recipe comes from his Far Eastern Odyssey – recipes from Bali, Sri Lanka, etc. All delcicious!

  • I wonder if you are needing to adjust your cooking to suit those higher altitude taste buds. These look stunning – trust you have now finished the remainder.

  • Right now, my stomach is growling and your recipe sounds terrific. I may not make fish cakes today since I am home alone, but I think I will run to the fish market and get a lobster roll!

  • I am kind of obsessed with Thai food these days. Do you think I could make these with my fish of choice (because they are low in toxics, high in omega 3s and easy to come by in my local stores) either canned Alaskan Salmon or Sardines?

    • I’m not sure about switching the fish for an oily one. I know what you mean about how good for you oily fish are though. I think I’d be more tempted to make a classic fish cake with the salmon as it has quite a strong flavour of it’s own.

  • I’d love to try making fish cakes one of these days. Will try your recipe one of these days.

  • Great recipe! I so miss the Thai fish cakes I used to eat in Koh Samui. I’m definitely going to try your recipe once I get hold of all of the ingredients. Cheers!

  • I love the mix of ingredients in these. I’ve made fish cakes but more on a Mediterranean/Italian feel. These sound delicious and I love the sauce!!

  • Yum, just my kind of food … our most memorable food experiences were also in South East Asia .. in Vietnam or Laos we ate the most mouthwatering fresh rice paper rolls … we wrapped some noodles, all kinds of fragrant and pungent greens, some shredded vegetarian spring rolls, a little tofu, then dunked it into a nuoc mam dipping sauce…this all took place in an outdoor food market where we perched on tiny stools with our enthusiastic purveyor urging us on with new delights at each mouthful! Naturally we have been making it ourselves ever since then (1995), good summer food!

    • A lovely memory there, thanks for sharing it. I can picture it all so easily!
      And I adore fresh spring rolls. In fact I have a great recipe I must share, I picked it up in Thailand from Mai Kaidee, and as you say is the most perfect sharing summer meal.

  • These Thai fish cakes look divine…so very delicious, I have to try them:)

    Thanks for visiting Peri’s Spice Ladle…You have a great site and articles. I’m going to bookmark them for a leisurely read!

    • Hi there, I think they are fabulous, we make them all the time !
      And thanks fo rthe compliments I’m loving your blog too, its lovely to make new connections isn’t it 🙂

  • I make some from an old Nigel Slater recipe which involves a lot of coriander, but I’ve never been to Thailand so would love to taste the real thing one day ! I love fish cakes.

    • Hi Linda, and oops I had to fish you out of spam! What a way to say thanks to you for popping in! Its a wonderful country to visit, I haven’t explored much, but what I saw, oh and ate was wonderous !

  • No breading, no flour and Thai? My kind of food! Just ran into this by accident and wondering how I missed it the first time around. 🙂

    • They are fabulous Lynda, even if I say so myself !! The trick is to not make them too wet, to keep them dry enough to be able to mold them in your hands. My brother makes them and he bakes them on a sheet in the oven if you’d rather not fry them, but I use very little oil

  • Hello Claire these little Thai fish cakes are gorgeous. I just came back from Koh Samui this last week and it is hard to beat the street food but your recipe looks like they have found their match! For some reason all of my comments seem to be going into everyones spam inbox. Can you take look and let me know? I think it is because I moved to my own self hosted site so please come have a visit at if you get a minute. Take care, BAM

    • Hi BAM< great to hear from you and how wonderful that you have been in Thailand – the fish cakes are supreme but if you make them the dipping sauce is a must!

  • You make it all look so easy, you do… Oh I wish it were that easy!!

    YUM 🙂 Lovely post.

    • Oh nut they are! A lot of chopping and whizzing to make the paste and then whizzing the fish in baches. Making sure the mixture isn’t too wet is key – and yes they are worth it 🙂

  • Made these last night, excellent balance of flavours, thank you! You don’t mention the French beans though in the method, I did mix them in though. Had a slight problem with the texture once the mixture had been in the processor, it was quite rubbery and I couldn’t roll them into balls at all as it broke up but managed to squidge them into more or less fishcake shapes. I used pollock. Have just read that maybe I could have added water, will try that next time. Really enjoyed them though 🙂

    • Hi Kathy, so sorry for not responding earlier, but I took a break from blogging. Thank you so much for letting me know about forgetting to mention the green beans. The mixture can be quite sticky, I suppose it depends on the kind of fish you use. I’ve been experimenting recently with a mixture of white and oily fish…… totally delicious! And if I make a huge batch I freeze part of it for another time, got to be a bonus right?!

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