Lately I've been looking to add more healthy seafood to my diet without breaking the bank, and while canned fish will never have the allure of a fresh filet, today's good-quality canned salmon is not the fishy, bone-studded mush you may be picturing. The boneless and skinless fish — once flaked and mixed with brown rice, cilantro, shallots and lime juice — cooks up into crisp-edged cakes that make an easy and satisfying weeknight meal, especially when topped with a dollop of Sriracha-spiked mayonnaise.
The fresh flavors of Southeast Asia season these cakes, making them a little different from the usual mustard- and celery-studded fish cakes. In addition to cilantro, lime juice, and minced shallot, a bit of fish sauce adds depth and savoriness to the mixture. But I think it's really the Sriracha mayonnaise that takes it over the top, whether dolloped over each cake or served on the side for dipping.
It's one of those condiments that tastes so much better than it ought to, given how simple it is to make. Mix bottled Sriracha sauce with mayonnaise. Done. Yet the subtly spicy sauce that results is so much better than plain old mayonnaise, it's difficult to not slather it onto everything. I have my friend Lydia of Apples & Onions to thank for this magic condiment; she made it for the bánh mì bridal shower she and some friends hosted for me a couple years ago, and I have found many excuses to make it since then.
And while these cakes don't take much time to mix together if you have cooked rice on hand, they hold together a little better if they are allowed to rest in the fridge. This makes them easy to assemble ahead of time — either in the morning or the night before cooking — for a quick, healthy main dish that feels fancy enough to forget it's actually budget-friendly.
Southeast Asian Salmon & Rice Cakes with Sriracha Mayo
Makes about five 2-1/2-inch cakes (Serves 2)
2 6-ounce cans boneless skinless pink salmon
1 cup cooked short-grain brown rice
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
For the mayonnaise:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
Before cooking cakes, place a large cast iron or other oven-safe skillet in the oven. Preheat to 400°F.
Combine the salmon, rice, egg, cilantro, shallots, lime juice and fish sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix with a fork until thoroughly combined. Using your hands, shape and lightly squeeze the mixture into cakes about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and set aside on a plate. If you have time, cover and let rest in the refrigerator. (See note below.)
Remove the hot pan from the oven with oven mitts. Coat pan with oil and place cakes in pan. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook in batches.) Return to oven and cook 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned on one side. Flip and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
While the cakes are cooking, whisk together the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl. Dollop mayonnaise on top of cakes or serve on the side for dipping.
- Refrigerating the cakes for at least 15 minutes or up to one day before cooking will help them hold their shape better. Otherwise, just handle them more carefully as you cook them.
- Short-grain brown rice has a sticky texture that helps hold the cakes together better than long-grain brown rice. (The cakes will still be delicious if made with long-grain brown rice, but they will fall apart a bit during cooking.)
- You can also cook the cakes in a skillet on the stove over medium heat until browned on both sides.
- Try cooking the cakes in coconut oil for another flavor variation.
(Images: Anjali Prasertong)