Vietnamese fish cakes are not comparable to Thai fish cakes (Tod man pla) that are often served with sweet chili sauce as a starter in Thai eateries. The fish patties are a particular specialty in my hometown Quy Nhon. No wonder the fish cakes of my mother are unparalleled. She has been able to peek, taste and try out for years with the best fish cake specialists of Vietnam, with the result that I have had no better elsewhere than out of her hands.

Cha ca chien are fried fish pastties served as a snack, between Vietnamese Banh mi sandwiches, between lettuce leaves or in the udon noedle soup Banh canh. It takes some time to make them, the multi-applicability of the fish cakes is the reward for all the work. They can also be freezed, which is especially easy with noodle soups or to pimp ready made noodle packages at any time. The fish of Cha ca chien can be minced roughly or finely to determine the desired structure of the fish cakes. My mother prefers a fine structure as possible.

Ingredients
For about 15 fish patties.

  • ½ kilo cod
  • 750 g plaice fillet
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp roughly grounded black pepper
  • ½ chili pepper, chopped (the top with seed for heat; the bottom with less seed for mild taste)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2½ tbsp fish sauce
  • ½ tbsp potato starch
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • oil in a bowl, to form the fish patties
  • oil, to fry the fish patties

Preparation

  1. Clean the cod and plaice fillet and cut them into small pieces. Put the fish in a large bowl.
  2. Mash the shallots and garlic in a mortar into a fine paste.
  3. Put the shallot-garlic paste, ground pepper, chili, sugar, fish sauce, potato starch and baking powder to the fish and stir well. Cover the fish with foil and let stand at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Grind the fish in the food processor into a fine paste. The structure is to taste, but usually a very fine fish paste is chosen. Put the fish mince in a bowl and cover with foil. Allow a day in the fridge.
  5. Put in a bowl some oil to grease the hands thus forming the fish patties. To form the patties I use disposable gloves, but bare hands will do too. Put some oil on your hands and form a small ball with the fish paste. Press the ball with the hands flat to the desired shape. It is also possible to use a baking tin as a mold, coated with foil to form the patties so that they do not stick to the baking mold. Remove the foil after the formation of the patties.
  6. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Deep-fry one side of the fish burger in about 10 minutes until golden brown underside, turn over and cook the other side for about 5 minutes until golden. Let the fish cakes drain on paper towels and let stand a while before use.