Thai Steamed Fish Cakes (Hor Mok Pla)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Thai cuisine, to me, remains one of those life's mysteries which would make me rather go to a good Thai restaurant than slave over a hot stove trying to figure out the different types and the delicate balance each ingredient makes to a single dish.

I love a clear, spicy Tom Yum Soup, but another dish which I have never failed to order when I visit a Thai restaurant is the Thai Steamed Fish Cake. Like the Nonya Otah, each parcel bursts with flavour, and is perfect served with white rice.

When I was introduced to a recipe for a steamed fish cake which uses just a few basic ingredients, I was intrigued. I kept on asking my colleague (who used to work in a Thai restaurant, and whose wife is Thai) "That's ALL??!"

He replied, with a loud laugh: "This is 2014. No time to pound and grind and look for leaves by the roadside. Just don't let the Thai grandmas know."

So I tried his recipe, and was impressed.

Thai Steamed Fish Cakes (Hor Mok Pla)

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 20 min
Makes 8 parcels


  • 500 gr fish fillet (I use Tenggiri / Mackerel)
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 50 gr Thai chilli paste (I cheated and used a ready made one)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chicken stock granules (optional)
  • Banana leaf, wiped with a damp towel and cut into squares.


1. Wash and dry fish fillets. Prepare 250ml coconut milk and chilli paste. Set aside.

2. Scrape the fish meat using a tablespoon. I like mackerel for otahs because the meat retains its' 'bouncy' texture.

3. Mash the fish fillet lightly, mixing in the salt, sugar, pepper and chicken granules.

4. In a food processor, blend the fish meat with the chilli paste. If you would like to prepare this in advance, do not add in any coconut milk as yet. Once coconut milk is added in, it has to be cooked immediately.

5. Make the banana boats. If you do not have banana leaves (which can be bought from the wet market), simply use a casserole dish or ramekins.

I used toothpicks - in an attempt to make it look as authentic as possible, since I cut short so many steps!!

6. Fill the boats with the fish paste. If you'd like them more 'watery', add more coconut milk. I prefer mine with more bite, so I used only as stated.

7. Steam for 15 - 20 min, or until the surface lightly springs back when pressed.

It's that simple.



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