With all that’s been going on here at AMK, it’s just been too easy to neglect my dear blog. I’m sorry my lovely readers for being incommunicado for this long. Making curry tins for gift shops and fancy food stores, cooking for private dinner parties and teaching Malaysian cooking both here and in students’ homes has been fun, but honestly nothing is as rewarding as writing a few paragraphs about a favorite dish and sharing the recipe! So here I am with a little recipe about my mum’s famous fish croquettes. I dare you to make this recipe and then eat just ONE!
Last night during my usual six o’clock “What’s For Dinner” scramble, I realized I hadn’t defrosted anything and there were a grand total of zero options for a protein. No meat, no fish… wait! There’s this can of Wild Alaska Salmon sitting in my cabinet. I know that my husband detests canned salmon so I had to come up with a way to cook it that would ensure it would go down without a fuss. I searched my memory for all the ways I could possibly use this and up popped a picture of my mum’s tasty little fish croquettes, or fish cutlets as we call them in Malaysia. Now, it would be a cold day in hell before Mum will use canned fish for her croquettes. Mum’s version begins with a trip to the Pasar Besar Seremban, where she finds the freshest mackerel, has it cleaned and brings it home where she works her magic on it. She’s an absolute pro at food shopping at the market – I wish I could take you all on a trip to the wet market to watch her in action. She has all her regular peeps – the fish man, the pork man, the beef guy, the chicken lady, the egg lady, the ground spices lady, the whole spices guy, and of course her favorite – the onion/garlic/ginger man. She’s bought from them all regularly for years and has a sweet bullying way of getting the absolute best and freshest of everything. She shows up with her sweet smile, then a quick scowl and they wouldn’t dare but give her only the very best! But I digress.
Before I share this recipe, which is Mum’s basic technique adjusted according to what I had on hand in my kitchen last night, here are some pics of Mum’s fish croquette process that I was pleased to be a part of last Christmas when we were back home. We were making these for a holiday dinner party and had to make a gazillion of them. Mum always says that these are a lot of work. I, however was happy to have this project that kept us busy in the kitchen for hours. It’s such a pleasure to watch her do her thing, boss me around, and get into a classic mother-daughter gossip/bicker/giggle session with her. Even when we bicker, her kitchen is full of love and you know that’s the special ingredient that makes these so, so, so good. Yes, this warrants three so’s.
As you can see, Mum’s croquettes start with fresh fish, boiled then very carefully flaked to remove the skin and bones. Mashed potatoes are added, along with onions, red chillies, curry leaves and various spices. In Malaysia, if you made fish croquettes without red chillies and served them to your guests, I bet they’d throw them at you and go out for dinner.
My version begins with a can of salmon, no potatoes and no red chillies. Any white, flaky, meaty fish will do. As will fresh salmon. Some folks even use canned tuna or sardines. If you’re starting with fresh fish, boil it in salted water until cooked, let cool, carefully remove the skin and bones, then flake with a fork. If you’re using canned, remember that there are bones in canned salmon. Don’t go too crazy trying to remove every. single. pinbone. or you’ll be eating your croquettes next July. Just take out the big, round center bones and you’re good to go.
Fish Croquettes (serves 4)
1 can salmon (about 15oz) – center bones removed
2 Jersey shallots – chopped
3 curry leaves – finely chopped
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (Mum uses Panko, I used Matzo meal)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin – toasted
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl – oh, go on and use your hands, you know you want to. 2. With wet hands, roll the mixture into little balls about the size of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. Don’t ask me how I know what size those are. I just know, ok? You can leave them as balls, or you can do as Mum does and flatten them like this. Once all the mixture is used up, I like to pop these in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes – it helps them stick together when cooking.
3. Heat about 1/2″ of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is ready, gently place the croquettes one by one into the hot oil.
4. Cook for two minutes, then gently flip them over to cook the other side.
5. Using a spatula, carefully remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. And here they are looking all “come hither”. I hope you’ll give these a try and let me know how they turned out and how many you inhaled. Happy Cooking! – Auria
By: Auria Abraham
© Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen 2013