South East Asian cooks know how to whip up a great salad, and one of the key features of the cuisine is the use of unripe fruit like papaya or mango, which provide a soft crunch and sweet yet sour tang. Perfect to offset the mild smokiness of these little fishcakes!
Whilst on a trip to Cambodia, we stopped off in Phnom Penh for a couple of days. One one of those days we went for lunch at Friends the Restaurant, an NGO training restaurant aimed at providing marginalised youth with skills and employment. One of the dishes we had there was a grilled fish and mango salad, and after lunch I also took the opportunity to grab a copy of From Spiders To Water Lilies, a Cambodian cookbook published by Friends.
A few months later and I was flicking through the book which has a recipe for a green mango and smoked fish salad. While not quite the same as what we ate in Cambodia, it sounded just as tasty, so I gave it a go.
The first time I made this, I stayed sort of true to the original recipe, which calls for dried smoked fish and dried shrimps together with strips of green mango, shallot and herbs. I substituted flaked smoked mackerel and fresh prawns instead, and it wasn’t bad.
However, I decided to mix it up a little bit, throw in a bit of a nod to Thailand by blending the smoked fish with prawns to make little fishcakes to serve on top of the salad.
I can’t always get my hands on fresh green mango, so I’ve tried substituting grated green apple instead [as sometimes suggested by some Thai cooks], which while not quite the same, provides a similar sweet/sour crunch against the smoky density of the fish cakes. The image below shows apple on the left, mango on the right.
You can see the mango has started to ripen already, so wasn’t quite as sour or crunchy as I would have liked. So I ended up using both green mango and apple together, which actually worked quite well – they each have complementary characteristics, but still added their own individual flavour to the salad.
The fishcakes use a ratio of 25% smoked fish – I’ve tried it with half prawn and half smoked fish previously, but found the smokiness could overpower the rest of the salad. So my preferred ratio is 50% prawn, 25% fresh fish, 25% smoked fish. However, if you think you might prefer a stronger smoky flavour, just play around with the ratios of the smoked fish, reducing the amount of fresh fish if you like.
Recipe adapted from Green Mango Salad with Smoked Fish and Sun-dried Shrimps from the cookbook From Spiders to Water Lilies, published by Friends International.