Thai Fish Cakes

4 servings
35 min

Perfect for Lent, these Thai Fish Cakes are a spicy way to prevent boredom on Meatless Fridays. Even those who dislike fish will enjoy the Asian flavors of these Thai Fish Cakes.

I discovered Thai Fish Cakes while on a business trip to Thailand. Strolling down Sukhumvit Soi 38 looking at all the street food vendors, I was happily taking in all of the delicious aromas.

When I spied beautiful, golden patties, I stopped to check out the most glorious, spicy, fried patties wrapped in a banana leaf ‘cone’.  

I immediately had to buy a couple. When I bit into the patty, I was struck by the intense flavor bomb in my mouth. It was amazing. The texture, the flavors were all new to me. Yep, I was hooked. So much so, that I made three more trips to the vendor just to get another fix.

I asked the Concierge at the hotel to find the recipe for me. This is the recipe that I was given. It isn’t exact, but it’s pretty darn close.

If you enjoy Asian flavors, then you’ll enjoy this recipe. It’s salty, a bit spicy, and rich from the coconut milk and the fattiness of the salmon.  

Forget about the texture of the fish cakes your grandmother made. These are not spongy at all. Instead, you first experience the crunch of the pan-fried crust.  

Then, you experience the rich, soft, interior that is full of sophisticated flavor.


  • Fish - preferably fresh, not frozen. I used salmon, but I’ve used cod, haddock, and Mahi with great results.
  • Coconut milk - the one in the can, and full fat. You’ll want the flavor and creaminess of the fat.
  • Fish sauce - adds a salty, umami note
  • Chili powder, cumin, and ground coriander - helps to build the sophisticated flavors
  • Brown sugar
  • Unseasoned bread crumbs - don’t use the Italian seasoned crumbs.
  • Lime zest, fresh dill weed, scallions, and garlic - another layer of fresh flavors
  • Dried, crushed red pepper flakes - for heat
  • Peanut oil or any oil with a high smoke point


The best part of this recipe is that your food processor does most of the work.

Pulse all the ingredients, except the peanut oil, in the food processor.

Form patties and chill.

Then pan-fry until golden brown and crispy.


Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 30 Minutes Cook time: 5 Minutes Total time: 35 min
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  • 1 pound fresh salmon fillets
  • 4 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh dill leaves
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper flakes
  • Peanut oil

Dry the fish with a paper towel.
Cut the fish into chunks and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Set aside.
In a glass measuring cup, combine coconut milk, fish sauce, chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, and brown sugar.  Stir to combine.
Pour the milk mixture over the fish.
Pulse 3-4 times until coarsely chopped.
Add ½ cup bread crumbs, lime zest, dill weed, scallions, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Pulse to combine.  The mixture should be able to form patties. If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs and pulse again until the desired consistency.
Scoop about ¼ cup of the fish mixture and pat it into a small cake and flatten it slightly.  Repeat with the remaining fish mixture.
Place the fish cakes onto a plate. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour about 1-inch of peanut oil into a heavy-bottomed frying pan.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot (a bread crumb should sizzle when you toss it into the oil).
Use a metal spider to gently lower the fish cakes into the oil.  Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden on one side.  Flip and fry the other side until golden and firm - about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
Remove from the pan and blot both sides with paper towels.
Serve warm with sweet chili sauce on the side.
  • Take the time to make sure you remove any tiny bones and the skin from your fish fillets.
  • If you are using frozen fish, be sure to thaw it completely and dry the fillets.
  • Don’t over-process the fish and vegetables. You don’t want a paste. It’s better to process the fish in batches and then mix it by hand in a mixing bowl.
  • Be sure that your oil doesn’t get too hot or the outside of your fish cakes will burn and the insides will still be raw.
Eats By The Beach (Millie Brinkley)
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