Japanese fried fish cakes are made in a similar way to Thai fish cakes but the flavourings are less spicy and use common Japanese seasonings. Unlike typical Western-style fish cakes, they do not use flour or mashed potatoes to bind the fish together. It is mostly fish with finely chopped vegetables mixed in.
Add the fish paste to the bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture into 10 equal portions.
Heat oil in a deep frypan or a skillet to 170C (335F) (note 4).
Wet your hands. Take 1/10 of the fish cake mixture and make a ball, then flatten to make flat oval shape (note 5). Place it in the oil.
Remove the fish cake and drain oil on a rack or kitchen paper.
1. I used ocean perch fillets but you could use any white meat fillets. In Japan, cod is often used to make fish cakes at home. It does not have to be white meat, you could use fish such as sardines, yellow tail (horse mackerel), or mackerel but white meat fish would be less fishy when cooked. Avoid very oily fish.
2. I used these vegetable as I already had them. You can use other vegetables such as finely chopped onion, green peas, beans, shiitake mushrooms, or lotus roots. It is important to chop the vegetables very small.
3. I used frozen shredded burdock as fresh burdock roots are not readily available in Sydney. Frozen burdock can be purchased in Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
4. To check the temperature of the oil without a thermometer, use one of the following.
a. Drop small bits of breadcrumbs into the oil. The bits will sink half way and then come up with small bubbles around them.
b. Stick a pair of bamboo chopsticks into the oil. Small bubbles appear around the chopsticks and come up constantly.
5. I made oval shaped fish cakes because they are common in Japan. But they can be round, square, smaller balls or log shape if you like. If making balls, you need to divide the fish paste mixture into smaller quantities, making more pieces.
6. You can fry many fish cakes at once as long as you don’t over-crowd the oil with too many. I fried them in two batches.
7. These fish cakes have sufficient flavour so I prefer just using a bit of lemon to eat. But fish cakes are often served with grated ginger and soy sauce in Japan. Mix the ginger and soy sauce in a small plate and use it as dipping sauce.
8. Fried fish cakes freeze well. To defrost, leave them on the kitchen bench to thaw naturally or use a microwave. Do not overheat in microwave as fish cakes will explode. You could grill frozen fish cakes over medium low heat to heat up, too.