• February 16, 2016

    Masala Fish Cakes

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    I know I’ve told you before about how my Indian mother-in-law is a wonderful cook.  She makes everything just taste good.  So good. Like fish cakes, for example, which she calls Kerala-style Fish Cutlets.  I’ve never had any variation other than the standard potato and fish with maybe some minced parsley for good measure.  Then Amma came and shook up my world with ginger and onion and chile.

    I feel so blessed to have a lovely, multi-cultural family. It makes life and food so much more exciting and colourful.

    It’s been several months since she was here, so I went by memory – I can’t remember if her version uses dry spices. I included turmeric, which has a wonderfully bright colour and bitter-citrusy flavour, and cayenne.  I’m pretty sure she uses more oil, and fries them a deeper brown.

    The cakes are bound together with an egg, but are still quite fragile. I recommend chilling them in the fridge for an hour before cooking (or even before breading, if you’re finding the mixture too soft).

    I fried the fish cakes in ghee (clarified butter), because I keep some in my pantry, and also because yum.

    I had some leftover potato from another meal, but don’t use leftover mashed potato if it has milk or cream added – it will be too wet.

    To quickly cook a potato, prick the skin with a fork and microwave on high heat for 6 minutes or until tender, flipping once halfway through. Let cool, then remove skin and mash. Or, of course, just boil it (but why bother with a peeler, and then dirty another pan?).

    This makes a super quick dinner or weekend lunch. You can substitute 6 ounces of any leftover fish in place of the canned tuna, and feel free to omit any of the ingredients that you don’t have on hand – they’ll still be yummy (even if it comes back down to just fish and potatoes).

    And they freeze really well (pre-frying), so go ahead and double the batch.  Thaw in fridge before frying.

    Serve with ketchup and/or mayo for dipping.



    Masala Fish Cakes

    Flavourful Indian fish cakes (a.k.a. Kerala fish cutlets) with ginger, chile, cilantro and turmeric. Inspired by my mother-in-law's recipe.

    Course Lunch
    Cuisine Indian
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 6 minutes
    Total Time 16 minutes
    Servings 8 fish cakes
    Author Jennifer Pallian


    • 1 1/2 cups mashed potato
    • 1 6 oz can tuna drained
    • 1 tbsp packed minced cilantro
    • 1 tbsp packed finely grated ginger
    • 1 thai green chile finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp minced red onion or shallot
    • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
    • 1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs I used panko
    • ghee or oil for frying


    1. In a large bowl, stir together potato, tuna, cilantro, ginger, chile, onion, spices and salt, using a fork to thoroughly combine.
    2. Taste and add more salt if needed.  Once  the is seasoning right, then use a fork to whisk in the egg.
    3. Spread breadcrumbs on a plate. Scoop mixture by 1/4-cupfuls and flatten into 1/2"-thick circles between your palms to make cakes. One at a time, place cakes on the breadcrumbs to coat the bottom, then use a spatula to carefully flip to coat the other top. Transfer fish cakes to another plate and chill 1 hour.
    4. Heat 2 tbsp of ghee or oil in a large skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium heat.  When shimmering hot, carefully slide in half of the fish cakes.  Don't crowd them by doing all in one batch, you need space to maneuver a spatula to flip them.  Cook about 6 minutes, flipping once halfway through, reducing heat if browning to quickly.
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