You’ll find them under several names: tawd mun pla, tod mun pla, thot mun pla, thot man pla, or ปลา ปลา in Thai.
These little fish cakes are the kings of street food in Thailand. Let’s talk about street food !
The earliest traces of food prepared and cooked in the streets date back to the dawn of our civilization, about ten thousand years ago. The Greeks already described the Egyptian tradition from the port of Alexandria to fry and sell fish in the streets. This custom was later adopted in Greece.
From Greece, the custom came to the Roman world, enriching and transforming itself into innumerable variations. The excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii uncovered the well-preserved remains of several types of thermopolium, the ancestors of today’s “huts”. These were small kitchens with direct access to the street, used to sell all kinds of cooked food at the time, mainly barley, bean or chickpea soups. At the time, the poorer classes lived in houses that for the most part didn’t have food or a kitchen. The nearest thermopolium offered comforting food that was accessible to all budgets.
For today’s small fish cakes, the fish is first mashed and then mixed with several ingredients such as the famous red curry paste that I discussed last week for my corn fritters recipe, cilantro (including stems), fish sauce, combava, galangal root, egg to bind, and, a great discovery for me, yardlong bean.
Even if you can easily replace this variety of beans with classic green beans, which is common in Thailand, you can imagine that I did not miss the opportunity to go to the nearest Asian supermarket to discover this ingredient that I had never tasted. This variety of bean is actually very common and quite easy to find in any Asian market.
It is also known as long-podded cowpea, asparagus bean, pea bean, snake bean, or Chinese long bean. It is also known as bora or bodi in Asia. It is therefore a herbaceous climbing plant of the fabaceae family, cultivated as a vegetable plant for its edible pods and seeds. It is often planted with maize which serves as support because of its height.
The pale green cylindrical pods are remarkable for their length, up to a yard at maturity. These pods contain a dozen kidney-shaped seeds of varying color depending on the varieties, including pink, red, or black.
I found the taste of this bean very pleasant: a mixture of green bean and asparagus, hence the name of asparagus bean.
Tod man pla can be made with any firm flesh white fish including cod, ling or coley (pollock). I personally used cod.
When we think about authentic and traditional recipes, we often think about street food and 196 flavors has been quite prolific when it comes to authentic street food recipes. Empanadas, samosas, falafels, sfenjs, baghrirs, salt fish cakes, accras, banana akaras and churros are just a few examples of such traditional street food recipes!
I really loved this Thai fish cake recipe. I invite you to prepare them at home, you will not regret this trip!
- 1-½ lb firm flesh white fish filets , e.g. cod
- 2 eggs , beaten
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ Tbsp galangal root , chopped
- 1 Tbsp cilantro , finely chopped (leaves and stems)
- 2 Tbsp lemongrass , chopped
- 3 garlic cloves , chopped
- 2 shallots , chopped
- ½ lb yardlong beans or green beans , finely chopped
- 1 tsp combava zest
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 8 dried peppers , crushed
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Grind the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, galangal root, combava zest, crushed dry peppers, salt and shrimp paste until getting a thin, homogeneous paste.
- Mix the fish and the curry mixture in a blender.
- Add beaten eggs and fish sauce.
- Place the fish and beaten egg mixture in a large bowl. Add the chopped green beans and mix. Knead the mixture by hand for 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Grease your hands and shape round and flat fish cakes, using about a tablespoon of the mixture for each cake.
- Heat a large amount of oil in a frying pan.
- When the oil is hot, add the cakes and cook until golden. Place the fish cakes on paper towels.
- Serve them with cucumber salad and/or a bowl of white rice.