Vietnamese fish cakes

If I see whole skate available at the fish markets, I nearly always get one, and not just for the reaction it elicits from other shoppers. We have an uneasy relationship with strange-looking fish in this country. Many of us won't touch species like skate or octopus, because they look "gross". This is, of course, childish nonsense. Even though I stood on something skate-ish as a child in the Coromandel and have been entertaining a phobia of anything even remotely ray-like ever since, I still get over myself, and so should you. (I will admit that I make the fishmonger fillet them for me.) 

Skate is woefully underrated here, so cheap, and oh so delicious. It's also a forgiving fish, which makes it very well suited to this dish. 

Cooking time
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Serves: 2-3 as a snack

250g skate fillets
¼ red onion, finely diced
Thumb's worth of peeled ginger, grated
Soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 lime
Generous handful of coriander, finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 egg
Sliced red chilli, to taste

Using a sharp knife, chop up the skate finely; you may want to do this in a food processor but I prefer a bit of texture 

(I also hate cleaning the food processor). You want it reasonably fine, but not a paste. Use your judgment. Pop into a mixing bowl and combine with the chopped red onion, ginger, a teaspoon of the soy sauce, sesame oil, a couple of dashes of fish sauce, a teaspoon of the sugar, a little bit of salt, zest from the lime and most of the chopped coriander. 

Get a frying pan going over a high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil and let it heat up. 

Break the egg into the fish mixture, and using your hands, combine everything well. Still using your hands, drop little golf balls of the mixture into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes on both sides, carefully flipping them over with a spatula or butter knife. Let them drain on paper towels and you cook the remaining mix. 

In a wee bowl, combine another teaspoon of soy with a teaspoon of fish sauce, the juice from the lime, the remaining teaspoon of sugar, remaining chopped coriander, and enough sliced red chilli to taste. Serve the fish cakes while they are still hot, alongside the dipping sauce. 

Article written by Sam Mannering:

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