Fish Cakes or the Optimist’s Crab Cake

Fish cakes, they’re like crab cakes only with fish.

They kind of look like meat patties.

This recipe is from The Everything Thai Cookbook. 

I like to imagine there’s some sort of optimist club or new age group out there that feels crab cakes invoke too many negative emotions with their crabbiness so they have to substitute with fish. That’s just my quirky imagination, though.

What else do you want me to say? I’m just going to list the ingredients now, ok?

What you’ll need.

  • 1/4 cup of chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup of chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped lemongrass, inner portion only
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lime peel
  • 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste
  • 5-10 dried chilies, seeded, soaked, and shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 pound of boneless whitefish steak, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 pound of French beans, trimmed and finely chopped.
  • Vegetable oil

The first step, is to get your handy dandy food processor out and grind up the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, peppercorns, lime peel, shrimp paste, chilies, and salt. Blend til you get a smooth operating paste.

Once properly smoothed, add your fish to the food processor and mix until it matches the paste consistency. Finally add the egg to this food processor mixture.

When all of these elements have been combined, switch over to a mixing bowl and stir in the green beans for more mixing.

We are now ready to make our patties. Do so, by spooning a tablespoon’s worth of the mixture and forming that into a round cake. Repeat this process until all of the mixture is used up.

The final step is to fry the patties and to do so, we need to heat 1/8 to a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil over medium heat. Once you reach a temperature of 350, fry the fish cakes until golden.

Pat the grease out with a paper towel once fried and then you are ready to eat!

IMG_0001

Positive thinking pescetarian cake

It looks like chicken doesn’t it? It kind of tastes like chicken too. I would say that’s odd but everything tastes like chicken, except beef and pork. That’s the real oddity there. Why does that meat taste so different? Are they more bold?

These thoughts actually kind of bother me, because I love animals, but I also like eating some of them. Now I feel like a jerk!

 

 

Advertisements

Coconut Bundle of Burnin Shrimp

The Everything Thai Cookbook truly has everything Thai. I thought I liked everything Thai, but sadly this cookbook is proving me wrong.

I don’t think it’s the cookbook’s fault. When I originally got this book, circa 2006, I only cooked the stir fry recipes. Those I can tell you are delicious. The appetizers are more traditional and some are difficult to make. I’m positive when I get past the appetizer section, I’ll be more pleased.

That being said, I almost didn’t want to write about Coconut Bundle, because I got a nasty comment about my views on  Mee Krob . I thought it was gross and my cooking experience of making it was not pleasant.

If you read that entry, you’ll see I did what I normally do with a recipe I fail at. I make fun of myself, it, and more. I have discovered that not everyone understands my, (what I thought was harmless) sarcasm.

So let it be known, dear readers, that I enjoy most Thai dishes. I especially enjoy stir fry with eggplant and basil. I have no problems with Thai people or Thailand. The only Asians I don’t like are North Koreans and that loathing is reserved for their government. I’m sure most North Korean citizens are a-okay.

Now that I have that disclaimer out-of-the-way, here’s what you’ll need for the coconut bundle.

  • 1 cup of shredded fresh coconut
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of shrimp paste
  • 1/2 cup of diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped lime segments
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/2 cup of dried shrimp
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced
  • 20-25 medium sized spinach leaved, washed and patted dry

The first step is easy enough for an American who is a novice cook.

Hey! That’s me!

That step is to saute the coconut over medium heat until it has browned. This should take 20 minutes.

While the coconut is browning, make some sauce by melting the brown sugar in a pan. Once it’s halfway melted, add the shrimp paste.

By the way, I could not find shrimp paste. I looked at two different Korean grocery stores, as wells as Vons. One of my best friends is from Japan and told me that she wasn’t surprised by this. She said shrimp paste is truly more of a Thai and Vietnamese specialty. So, if you decide to make this, I recommend going to a Thai grocery store because you’re probably not going to find it anywhere else.

I ended up substituting with fish sauce and it came out chewy and stringy. I’m guessing this is not what’s supposed to happen.

When your coconut has properly browned, you can move on to the next step which is mixing it with onion, lime pieces, peanuts, dried shrimp, and jalapenos. Mix it by gently tossing in a bowl.

There’s an ingredient in this that I don’t understand why I don’t like it. Dried shrimp. I like shrimp, but dried shrimp is an oddity for me. It kinda freaks me out. It doesn’t have much of a taste, so it’s not disgusting. I just feel like I’m eating a dried bug instead of shrimp. It’s a psychological thing I guess.

My Japanese friend assuaged my feelings of being an uncultured dumb American by revealing to me that she is also not a fan of dried shrimp. She says it’s a common snack to feed kids in Japan, but she never liked it. I’ve seen her eat some other kind of dried seafood snack. I think it was octopus. I don’t really remember because we were on a road trip when I witnessed this event. I was driving, so I only got a rear view mirror look.

Moving on, to serve this dish you place an appropriate amount of spinach leaves on a plate. An appropriate amount would be enough to hold a good-sized bundle of coconut. When you’ve assessed the serving size most appealing to you, you’ll sprinkle the bundle with your sauce.

Consume the bundle by scooping it up with the spinach leaves and popping it into your mouth.

Thankfully, I liked this recipe much better than Mee Krob, but I still thought it was weird. The lime segments are juicy and tend to overtake the flavor. I actually liked that, but a friend of mine found it a little jarring. The coconut tastes fantastic and pairs well with the rest of the ingredients.

The elements I did not enjoy about this dish was the sauce and the dried shrimp. We already know my feelings about the shrimp. The sauce, I screwed up and that made consuming the dish a little daunting. I felt like I was eating the La Brea Tar Pits.

I’d be curious to try this again without the dried shrimp and either making the sauce correctly or with a different kind.

The good news is that I did try this on a fish taco when a friend of mine had a fish fry party. It was actually pretty good as a topping. I’m thinking about opening up a taco truck in Silverlake and charging hipsters $12 for tacos.

Those hipsters will eat anything they think is odd. I can say that because I’m part hipster.

IMG_1867

The Bundle

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Freedom Fries

This next recipe and recent current events reminded me of the days when the leaders of my country were being haters towards the French. Remember that?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather we be one with France then having a pissing contest with them. I just can’t help but remember how amusing it was to me that people were actually referring to French Fries as Freedom Fries, in addition to other items with the title French in them.

It also just occurred to me, did people call French Bulldogs, Freedom Bulldogs? Was that a thing ever?

Boycotting French Bulldogs would make sense, since they actually are French. Well French and British, but so is most British Royalty and no was calling The Queen, Freedom Queen.

The whole thing was silly and amusing to me, since most French named food items aren’t necessarily French. In fact there is a heated dispute between Belgium and France as to who invented fries.

Oh my god, is that why Belgium has become a hotbed for terrorist plots? Maybe we should call them Freedom Fries. Freedom from grudges and violence that is.

I’m being facetious if you’re having trouble denoting my intentions here. I’m a big fan of coping with crisis and deflecting hostility via humor.

Thai people have their own version of fried freedom and The Everything Thai Cookbook has shown me the way with the following ingredients.

You will need, 2 medium sweet potatoes, 4 green plantains, 1 pound of taro root, 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup of sticky rice flour, pepper, salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 3 tablespoons of black sesame seeds, and 1 14oz bag of shredded coconut.

Before we begin, let me recommend going to an Asian Food Market to buy most of these ingredients. If you can specifically go to a Thai one, that is even better. I went to a Korean market at first and they did not have taro root, but the Thai market did. If you don’t have that resource, however, it’s not necessary to have taro root. You can substitute with another type of veggie. In other words, the taro is one of the items being fried. It’s not an ingredient per se.

The first step is to peel the potatoes, taro, and the plantains. Cut each of them into fry like shapes of your choice. I went with the traditional long and skinny style.

Once that’s done, you will make your fry batter by combining both flours and a 1/2 cup of water. Continue to add a 1/4 more of water intermittently until the mixture resembles pancake batter.

Next add the remaining ingredients you haven’t used yet.

You are now ready to freedom fry!

I’m still terrible at frying, by the way. I never seem to get the right temperature and the batter tends to slide off. So, if you have a cooking thermometer and are challenged like me, you should use that thing. I should use that thing, but I don’t have one and I’m too cheap and lazy to go out and get one.

I digress.

The cookbook says to fill a frying pan with vegetable oil a third to a half full and to heat it over high heat, but not too high. Whatever that means.

When it’s just Goldilocks right, fry those veggies! Be careful, though, cause you could burn your foot like I did. It was not a pleasant experience, trust me.

Anyway, you’re going to fry those veggies until they are golden brown and the best way to do so is to turn them over once in awhile. Once they have browned, place them on a bed of paper towels to soak up excess oil and then they’ll be ready for consumption.

Despite my frustrations with frying, these turned out well. The coconut is the most assertive taste and it sweetens up the greasy oil taste you normally have with fried foods.

The fried plantains were a little strange for me. It tasted fine, but I wasn’t a fan of combing that kind of mushy texture with fried batter. The taro was a little stiff too, but still tasty. I’ll admit the sweet potato was my favorite, even though it makes me a little sad  to admit it. I feel uncultured.

Oh well, you like what you like right?

Flavored Rice Sticks

Thai food is a favorite ethnic food of mine, or so I thought. The more I cook out of The Everything Thai Cookbook, the more I question this.

Perhaps, it’s time to admit to myself that I’m not cultured. I generally prefer the fusion of American and fill in the blank of ethnic foods and not the authentic stuff.

It’s exhausting trying to find “authentic” places anyway. Personally, I think you should work with what you’ve got. When immigrants moved to this country, they had to improvise and substitute certain ingredients that they couldn’t find here. They knew they couldn’t ask their relatives to send them some obscure food ingredient from back home, because it would probably taste bad by the time it crossed the ocean and had rats crap all over it in the holds of the ship.

It’s like when I’m in Indiana, I don’t like grilled fish that’s from the ocean, because it’s not as fresh. So I get that fish fried or I slather it in seasoning and sauce, because otherwise it’s just not good.

This is my way of saying, “Back off foodies! Leave me be, you snotty hipsters who’ve traveled all over Asia! I have good reasons for not liking authentic cuisine!”

As you might have guessed, I didn’t really like this recipe. It wasn’t gross. It tasted good, actually, but the texture was too crunchy and rice sticks tend to get everywhere. They break and get stuck into crevices all over the place. It’s irritating and for me, not worth the trouble.

The one thing I can say, is that this one of the easiest recipes I’ve had to make. All you need are a package of rice sticks, vegetable oil, salt, curry, and cayenne.

The only real step is to fry them in 2-3 inches of vegetable oil. Once they puff up, you transfer them to a towel and soak up the oil. Then you divide into three groups and sprinkle one group with salt, one with cayenne, and one with curry.

That’s all there is to it.

I am embarrassed to admit that I still managed to make a mistake though. I didn’t realize I was supposed to break the sticks into three-inch segments.

Oh well.

IMG_1302

Meh Sticks

Salt-Cured Eggs, Mr. Yuck Approved

This is more of a suggestion and less of a recipe as well. It comes from my Everything Thai Cookbook and requires a month of preparation. Thankfully I was getting excited about my future recipes and noticed this, so a month ago I went ahead and salted my eggs. The process is easy, but I think it’s a little unnecessary and strange.

What you do is pour one in a half cups of salt into a pan filled with 6 cups worth of water. Then you boil the water. You let the water cool and then pour it into a container with your eggs. Seal that up nicely and then wait a month. Once the month is up you just boil your eggs like normal.

I tried two eggs this morning and they were soooooooooo salty! I was not a fan. I’m going to give it another shot tomorrow, but as of now I feel a great wave of depression and disappointment that is akin to how I feel about all of my romantic endeavors.

Son-in-Law Eggs or Subtle Ways to Let Your Son-in-Law Know You Think He’s a Dick

Son-in-Law eggs come from my Thai cookbook. They are basically Thai deviled eggs, which I find intriguing. What is it about the deviled egg dish that different cultures have to give it such odd names? Also why son-in-law? Are they implying young men really love deviled eggs? Is it tradition to serve your son-in-law these eggs when they come to visit? Why? Why the strange names for boiled eggs that are cut in half with random stuff on top?

Don’t fret readers, because I looked this up for you and the story behind it is far better than what I thought. If a mother thinks her son-in-law is being an artichoke dick to her daughter she will serve this dish to let him know that his dick behavior could inspire her to serve his dick in a similar fashion. In other words she will pull a Lorena Bobbit on you.

I was hoping that westerners were inspired to call deviled eggs, deviled eggs, because of this story. Alas that isn’t the case! Western deviled eggs do originate from Rome, though, and the modern name originates around the 17th century because deviled was a term to describe food that had been boiled and/or was spicy.

Back to son-in-law eggs though. The process is very similar to deviled eggs, except after you boil and peel the eggs you fry them. By the way, I solved my boiled egg problem because the Thai cookbook actually gave me tips on how to boil an egg well. Thank you Thai cookbook.

Anyway, you fry the eggs until golden brown and then set them aside. The next step is to saute two diced scallions until they are nice and crisp. Set that aside and then make your tamarind sauce. The tamarind sauce consists of tamarind concentrate, fish sauce, and brown sugar. You let that boil and then simmer for 5 minutes until it is nice and thick.

Once everything is cooked, you slice your eggs in half and add your scallions and sauce on top. The final step is to garnish with chili flakes and cilantro. I omitted the cilantro, but I imagine it would be delicious on top.

I wasn’t a big fan of this dish. I thought it was ok. I think it’s because I’m not really a fan of tamarind. It’s a bit too tart and sweet for me. I loved the scallions on top, though. If I ever feel like making my own deviled egg combo, I would probably put scallions on it.

IMG_0966

The sauce represents the blood clotting that will ensue if you keep mis-treating your wife.

Mee Krob or A Food of Punishment

My next dish comes from my The Everything Thai Cookbook. I got this book when I discovered that I loved Thai food after my sister introduced me to it in college. So like usual I decided I wanted to learn how to make it for myself. So far that hasn’t been easy.

I’m also in the appetizer section of this cookbook. Thai appetizers have not been easy for me to make and this particular recipe was the most annoying and unsatisfying dish I’ve made so far.

To prepare you for this entry I googled Mee Krob and was surprised to discover that Mee Krob is actually in the urban dictionary. According to the Urban Dictionary it’s meaning is akin to a curse word meaning excrement. I couldn’t agree more.

I also discovered that this dish has ties to royalty. This is another thing I’m not surprised by. I’m pretty sure Thai royalty or more accurately Siam royalty ordered their servants to make this dish as a form of punishment.

I’m sure you are wondering now what the deal is with this dish, don’t worry I’m going to elaborate.

The first thing you have to do, which is the sauce, admittedly isn’t so bad. It consists of honey, sugar, vinegar, tamarind concentrate, and red food dye. The red food dye represents your victimization in making this dish. It’s very symbolic. Anyway you just mix all of that together. Simple, easy, stuff.

The next step is annoying. It’s so tedious and messy. You take a whole package of thin rice noodles and fry them in oil. This sounds easy, however, what you don’t realize is that the rice noodles are hard to break apart. When you do accomplish this task they fall into every crevice and corner in your kitchen. Then when they fry they puff up and squirt everywhere which causes you to have flashbacks of a certain dinosaur movie.

dino

My experience with frying rice noodles.

After you escape death from doing that you fry some dried shrimp, which isn’t so bad. It just kind of smells like, well, Mee Krob I suppose. After that you fry two beaten eggs. Once that’s done you heat up the sauce, add the dried shrimp to it, and pour it over the rice noodles.

All of that is easy enough, but the grueling process of transferring everything to be oiled up separately as well as the whole squirting oil of death experience makes this dish very high maintenance.

While making this I tried to stay positive. I recalled when I made samosas and how it was also a bit of a grueling process, but it was worth it because they tasted so good. Not Mee Krob. Mee Krob is worse than artichokes, people. Mee Krob is the mee krobiest boyfriend you could ever had. It’s abusive, mean, ugly, and you don’t  even really like it. Just stay away. You can do better.

IMG_0723

I can’t even think of a caption to describe my disappointment.