Given the fact I'd been taking cooking classes in virtually every port of call since leaving Halifax, you'd think that I went to one while I was in Hong Kong...and you'd be right. It was a chance to meet people, learn a new recipe or two, and add to a steadily growing rolodex of international dishes that I could whip out for a dinner party at a moment's notice. More or less.
What I really wanted to take was a dim sum cooking class, but what I ended up doing was Thai-ing one on, since there was nary a Chinese cooking class to be found throughout Hong Kong during the month of February 2009. Oh well, you dim sum, you lose some.
The class itself took place at Pantry Magic, a European-style upscale chain of retail kitchenware stores originating out of Kowloon. However, we were on the other side of Victoria Harbour at the company's Sheung Wan store, an area better known for dried fish stands and feral cats as opposed to fondue sets and pepper mills. Ironically, the word "incongruous" would be not out of place to describe the setting.
Surrounded by Le Creuset terrines and berry colanders, it was even more surreal to be with 15 other gweilo, watching a little Thai woman demonstrate how to make a number of traditional dishes from her homeland. Although she and I were probably both thinking, "How in the hell did I get here?" we didn't get distracted from the cooking tasks at hand. Here's one of the recipes we made, and it's absolutely defishous.
Thai Fish Cakes
200g of white fish meat*
3 tbsp of Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp of cornstarch
100g of long green beans, thinly sliced
1 red chili pepper, thinly and diagonally sliced (remove seeds to reduce the heat) OR 1/2 tsp. dried chili pepper flakes
200ml peanut oil* (use as much/little as you want, depending on how “oily” you want the cakes)
Add the fish, curry paste, cornstarch into a blender. Pour the blended mixture into a bowl and add the beans and chili pepper; mix well. Take a spoonful of the mixture and form into flat round cookie shapes. Pre-heat the pan over medium heat for a minute and then add the peanut oil and bring to a high heat. Drop the fish cakes in the hot oil, and wait until the fish cakes float back to the surface—this signals that the fish cakes are thoroughly cooked. Remove the cakes from the oil and blot with paper towel to remove excess oil. Serves 2.
*OPTION: To make this healthier, I would precook the fish or use something like canned tuna so the cakes could be pan-fried as opposed to deep-fried, therefore much less oil would be necessary.
30g English cucumber, thinly sliced and peeled
1 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp salt
10g toasted peanuts, chopped
3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
In a separate bowl, add the cucumber and mix it with the sweet chili sauce, lime juice and salt. Sprinkle the peanut pieces over the sauce. The sauce can be served as a side dish or you can pour it over the fish cakes.