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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

TASTE
Fish-cake recipes you can try at home

 •  Fish cake: It's a staple in many Island kitchens

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Chinese fish cake and fish-cake dumplings are just two of many variations on a much-loved staple food item that takes various forms and flavors in quite a few East and Southeast Asian cultures.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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If you love okazuya-style fried fish cakes, you might be surprised how easy they are to make at home.

The following recipe is a stripped-down version making use of less expensive aku, or skipjack tuna. These are great with a sweet chili sauce (mix sweet chili sauce with mayonnaise and a little Tabasco or chili pepper water).

Okazuya-style Aku Cakes

  • 1 pound fresh aku

  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 2 tablespoons fine, dry bread crumbs

  • Oil for frying (vegetable or olive)

    In a food processor, pulse aku until chunky. In a medium bowl, combine aku and remaining ingredients. Form into 4 to 6 hamburger-size patties.

    In a saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until quite hot and shimmering. Place 2 or 3 patties in oil and reduce heat to medium. Fry 3 minutes a side, until golden brown and cooked through.

    Drain on paper towels. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

    Makes 6 cakes.

    Per cake: 260 calories, 19 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, no fiber, no sugar, 19 g protein

    This 'ahi cake recipe is from Jessie Kiyabu of Waipahu, who shared it with my friend Marylene Chun. You can use the cheapest grade 'ahi the fishmonger has.

    The cakes go together quickly, make use of different fresh fishes, and have balanced flavor and texture. Chopped or grated vegetables add crunch and nutrition.

    (Go to www.honolulu advertiser.com/islandlife for a step-by-step video of this recipe.)

    Chun fries this in a mixture of butter and olive oil to add flavor and texture to the panko coating. It's important to heat the oil sufficiently so that the patties sizzle when they hit the fat; if the oil is too cool, the panko soaks up too much grease. The key is to find a balance: oil hot enough to sizzle, but not so hot that the outside burns and the oil turns dark brown and breaks down. On our stove, starting on medium high, then turning the heat down to medium, worked well.

    Chun said these are great with tartar sauce: 1/2 cup Best Foods mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon finely chopped raw onion, 1 tablespoon pickle relish. She was right.

    Mrs. Kiyabu's 'Ahi Cakes

  • 1 pound fresh 'ahi, aku, 'o'io, opah or firm-fleshed fish

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1/2 cup mixed vegetables grated carrots, thinly sliced green beans or sugar peas, chopped water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, or peeled, parboiled and chopped gobo (your choice)

  • 1 1/2 cups panko

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    Cut the raw fish into 1/2-inch cubes; pull out about one-quarter of the fish and chop it still more finely (this helps the cake to hold together).

    In a bowl, combine fish with remaining ingredients and lomi (massage with hands) to combine. Pat into fat pupu-sized balls or 3-inch flat burgers, compressing the cakes as you form them.

    Fill a pie pan with the panko. Gently place a cake in the panko and flip with a spatula to cover cake completely. Sprinkle cakes with more panko.

    Heat the oil and butter mixture on medium-high in a nonstick frying pan. Gently place the cakes in the oil, letting them fall away from you. Fry slowly until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Add more olive oil as needed to keep a thin layer of oil in pan. Drain the cakes on paper towels.

    Makes about 6 burgers or a dozen pupu-sized rounds.

    Per serving (one burger, made with 'ahi): 350 calories, 17 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 23 g protein

    This is Chun's mother's Chinese-style fish-cake recipe using raw fish paste found in plastic-wrapped containers in supermarkets, or scooped from bowls in the chill cases of Chinatown fish markets. Do not add any ingredient that contains salt because most fish pastes are liberally salted. We found the batter is too soft to be steamed but fries or poaches nidely.

    Aileen Chun's Chinese Fish-cake Patties (Gnee Biang)

  • 1 pound raw fish paste

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped green onion

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

  • Dash of sesame oil

  • Dash of pepper

    In a bowl, combine all ingredients, using a spoon to incorporate the mixture.

    Heat a nonstick pan with a thin film of peanut oil on medium-low. Use a large serving spoon to scoop up approximately A cup of the fish cake. Drop the fish cake gently into the pan. Use your finger to scoop out all the raw fish cake from the spoon. These patties are free-form; don't worry about shapes or "tails."

    Fry about 3 minutes per side. Inside should be white, not translucent. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot over rice.

    Makes about 8 small patties, about the size of silver-dollar pancakes.

  • Per patty (with 1 teaspoon oil in pan): 90 calories, 2 g fat, no saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, no fiber, no sugar, 8 g protein

    Variation: Marinate peeled raw shrimp in sherry; substitute for one-quarter to one-half the fish paste. Chopped ham, ground pork or chopped smoked oysters can be similarly substituted.

    Another use: This recipe makes lovely light dumplings when dropped into hot soup. Simply scoop up a handful and squeeze about a tablespoonful of the paste between the thumb and forefinger into lightly simmering broth (fish or chicken broth flavored with ginger is nice). Dumplings are done when they rise to the surface.

    Yet another use: Stuff bitter melon, eggplant, fried tofu or rehydrated black mushrooms; steam or pan-fry.

    Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.