BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Crispy Fish Cakes

  • Prep Time 20 minutes (plus 3 hours to chill)
  • Cook Time 25 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $18

When my daughter was about three months old, my husband and I went with a group of friends and their kids to the park in our neighborhood. Most of the other kids were between ages three and five, and they happily zipped without pausing from the monkey bars to the swingset to their parents for a snack refuel, and back again. I sat with a few other adults while nursing Anna on a bench.

"You know," one of the husbands turned to me with a wry smile, "parenting doesn't really start until your kid turns three."

"Oh, good," I replied without making eye contact with him as I shifted Anna to my other breast. "I'm glad to hear that I've been missing all this sleep in vain." 

After an awkward pause, we all had a tension-breaking laugh and then continued chatting about work and kids and preschool choices (eek), but his stupid comment stayed with me for days after our park date. I had taken a few months off from working to focus on taking care of my daughter, and though I missed having a professional world to play in every day, I was so absorbed in the minutia of new motherhood that I hardly had time to think about it. But if what I was doing wasn't "real" parenting, and the work life I had spent so many years building was on pause, then what was I supposed to call the way I spent my days? Was I merely a living, breathing diaper-changing milk machine/couch?

A few months later, I've been at this for long enough to know that there is no such thing as "real" parenting--that taking care of a child is a moving target because their brains are developing so quickly that nothing is the same from one day to the next. So too is my identity: I am a parent and a professional, and the two are not mutually exclusive. All of which brings me to these fish cakes.

The recipe, which is adapted from this one from The New York Times, is of many worlds. Flavorwise, the fish cakes are both a New England style crab cake and a Thai tod mun pla. They are sort of latke-esque (making them perfect for that mid-Hanukkah latke burnout), and yet they're also a protein-rich entree. They are just as good with steamed rice and garlicky broccoli as they are with crispy potatoes and creamy coleslaw. 

They are very easy to make, but they do have to chill in the fridge for a few hours before you cook them, so they require a little bit of forethought, but it's worth it. Also, these don't *need* the spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce I call for in the recipe, but they are seriously improved by it.

Give them a try, for Hanukkah, or just because it's Thursday. They are magical, delicious, and multifaceted, just like you.


  • 2 tablespoons coconut, olive, or neutral oil, plus more for frying Pantry
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless firm white such as cod or tilapia $8
  • salt and pepper Pantry
  • 1 medium or 2 small russet or yellow potato(es), peeled and sliced very thinly (you should have about 2 cups of peeled, sliced potato) $1
  • 2 eggs $3 for 1/2 dozen
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped, divided Pantry
  • 1 large handful cilantro leaves and stems, chopped $1 for a bunch
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated $0.50
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped $1 for a bunch
  • 3-4 small Thai chilies or 1/2 jalapeño, chopped finely (leave the seeds intact if you can handle the heat) $0.50
  • 4-5 fresh makrut lime leaves, de-stemmed and chopped finely optional but recommended
  • 1 lime, zested, 1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges) $0.50
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs $2.50 for 12 ounces
  • ½ cup mayonnaise Pantry
  • 2 teaspoons (more or less to taste) Asian chili sauce, such as sambal or sriracha Pantry
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour Pantry


Recipe Serves 4


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until sizzling.
  2. Season the fish with 1 teaspoon salt and the a few pinches or grinds of pepper, add to pan and cover with water. Let cook for 3 minutes on one side. 
  3. Flip fish and continue cooking until just cooked through.
  4. Remove the fish from the pan and transfer to a plate. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. While the fish cools, add the potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and more water if needed to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Flake the fish in a large mixing bowl. 
  7. Drain the potatoes and add to the fish. Use the back of a fork to roughly mash the potatoes with the fish.
  8. Add the eggs, 2 of the chopped garlic cloves, cilantro, ginger, scallion, chiles, makrut leaves, lime zest, and panko, and combine. Season with salt if needed. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
  9. While the fish mixture chills, stir the lime juice together with the Asian chili sauce and the mayonnaise. Cover and chill until serving time.
  10. Place flour on a plate. Form generous 1/4 cup fish patties about 1/2 inch thick. Dip patties into flour to lightly coat each side.
  11. In a large, preferably nonstick skillet, heat 1/8 inch of coconut oil over medium heat.
  12. Cook fish cakes until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes each side, adding more oil as needed. Move to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  13. Serve fish cakes with the spicy mayonnaise and lime wedges for squeezing.

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