These simple fish cakes are easy to pull together and most types of fish are suitable to use. The mix is soft so it does benefit from being made ahead and allowed to rest before frying. Adjust the curry paste as needed depending on how hot you like it. You could also use green curry paste here instead of red. Dried shrimp can be found in Asian supermarkets, and add both an umami hit and texture to dishes. Often they are pre-soaked before using. Once opened keep refrigerated in a jar.
Recipe Category: Ginny Grant Issue 192
A trip many years ago to Khon Kaen in north-eastern Thailand introduced me to the delights of Isaan cuisine and in particular larb (or larp laap, larp or laab as it is sometimes spelled), the chopped salad of minced duck, beef, pork, chicken or freshwater fish. The region’s cooking uses dried hot chilli with a wilful abandon; I’ve cut down the quantities somewhat but feel free to increase if you like. It’s not authentic, but I often add fresh chilli for a burst of colour too. Last summer I bought a sawtooth coriander plant at the Avondale market that is still going strong; its robust coriander flavour is perfect to use here, but otherwise use ordinary coriander along with other herbs. Don’t omit the toasted and ground rice. Not only does it add a nutty and textural component but it also helps to thicken the juices.
The dried black soy beans add a rich intensity to this dish. Find them at Asian supermarkets; they’ll keep indefinitely in the pantry. If you are using shellfish you have gathered yourself, remember to purge them overnight in sea water so they expel any sand.
While I love the texture that cellophane noodles provide I’m often infuriated by the mess they make when trying to separate them out – I’ve found the solution is to buy packets where they are bundled into small portions of around 50g, which are perfect to use here. I used frozen squid bodies, but you could use fresh. Incidentally this mix is delicious used as a filling for dumplings.
Prepare the mussels ahead then it’s just a matter of tossing together all the remaining ingredients for an easy lunch or dinner. Green papaya (pawpaw) or mango is relatively tasteless but adds an important textural component here.