Thai Appetizers: Spicy Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)


Florida’s long been famous as a major citrus producer. Some of the local farms like Brite Leaf cultivate more exotic varieties like the kaffir (makrut) lime tree. The leaves are one of the primary ingredients used in Southeast Asian, mainly Thai cuisine. I recently fertilized my kaffir (makrut) lime tree and was lucky enough to produce several new branches and some tender young leaves to make some appetizers with.

Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)

Tod Man Pla isn’t offered much on Western Thai menus. Sometimes I find them frozen but these spicy fish cakes are ubiquitous in Thailand. Traditionally, they’re served with a cucumber relish but I also serve them with a carrot dipping sauce.

Now, before you purists start balking that these aren’t ‘that traditional’ spongy texture made from pounding the fish paste to death, I’m making this recipe more like a flaky Atlantic fish cake style. It’s the only way to appease everyone in my Western family that hasn’t gotten used to the rubbery, bouncy tofu-like texture. So, I’m just going to stick with the flavours and keep this inspired, instead of authentic.

Try using other variations like substituting red curry paste for green or adding in a couple of fresh Thai chilies and a handful of cilantro. Make sure to serve them while they’re hot and moist or they’ll dry out as they cool. Have fun, experiment, but keep it tasty. That’s what cooking’s all about! Here’s a simple recipe for them:

Spicy Fish Cakes (Tod Man Pla)

2 lbs firm white fish like Cod/Halibut, coarsely chopped
3-4 Tbsp red curry paste
3 *eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
6-8 kaffir (makrut) lime leaves, ribs removed and finely sliced (chiffonade)
1 1/2 cups Chinese long beans/green beans, finely chopped crosswise
5 cups vegetable oil for frying

Using a mortar and pestle/food processor, mix everything but the beans and kaffir lime leaves, which are to be folded in afterwards.
*You may add more egg if you prefer a spongier texture. I prefer them to be flakier yet firmer like crab cakes.
Heat oil in wok/skillet to 350°F
Form 2″ rounds and drop carefully into the hot oil. Turn them once for a couple of minutes on each side and remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a plate covered with paper towel. Serves 6-8

Thai Cucumber Relish

Spicy Cucumber Relish/Carrot Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 English cucumber, seeded and finely diced or 1 cup shredded carrots
4 Thai birds eye chilies, finely minced (optional)
2 shallots, finely sliced or 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro for carrot dip
4 Tbsp roasted peanuts or cashews, crushed

In a small saucepan, warm the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves (about 5 min). Let the liquid cool, then add to the rest of the ingredients and serve. Enjoy!

Look out for more future posts on authentic Thai recipes for classic appetizers like spring rolls and spicy chicken satay!

You may also like:

Asian Stew with Chicken Meatballs, Bitter Melon & Chinese Broccoli Key Lime Pie Thai Seafood Salad (Isan Yum Yai) Kaffir (Makrut) Lime Tree

2 Responses

Please feel free to comment!

  • Thai Recipes says:

    Thai recipes are very unique in taste that is why people love them. I’m very fond of Thai food and want to try different Thai recipes. Thanks for sharing this Thai recipe.

  • LD says:

    Thanks, I’ll make sure to check out Marion’s Kitchen!

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