During my childhood in Barbados, fishcakes were ever-present at concerts, festivals and parties. And no trip to Enterprise Beach was complete without stopping by Mr. Delicious, a food van by the ocean, for a bunch.
As I grew older, I decided to learn how to make Bajan fishcakes on my own.
In this blog post, I’m sharing common fishcake-making mistakes I made when I first started practicing and tips for how to avoid them.
1. Too much baking powder
In an effort not to have “flat” fishcakes, it’s easy to put too much baking powder in. The result is often a super-greasy batch. Follow a rule of 1 teaspoon of baking powder to 1 cup of flour, and that should take care of things.
2. Too much soaking / too little soaking
To get rid of the saltiness, boiling the salted cod before adding it to the batter is the most popular technique. To avoid the pot boiling over, the fish losing all its salty flavor, or changing its texture by overcooking, I do this instead: Soak in just-boiled water for about 30 minutes, rinse, then soak again in room-temperature water for another 20-30 minutes. Each fish brand and variety is different, so during the soaking process, taste the fish to determine if it needs more or less time in the water.
3. Seasoning choices
I’ve learned there’s a basic formula for fishcake seasoned just right: no seasonings with salt; fresh, finely chopped onion and chives (non-negotiable); scotch bonnet pepper; and a little bit of fresh minced garlic. You might also choose to experiment with other spices and fresh herbs to give your fishcakes a distinct flavor and make them your own.
Chives are an essential fishcake ingredient.
4. Type of oil
First off, avoid extra-virgin olive oil. Using EVOO for frying fishcakes could leave you with lots of smoke in your kitchen and a strange flavor. If making a healthy fishcake is a priority, try an extra-light olive oil, or sunflower oil. Remember, these oils all have a distinct flavor, so if you don’t mind the extra calories, a more neutral-tasting vegetable oil is probably your best bet.
5. Oil temperature
Overheating your oil will kill your fishcakes–fast. I’ve found that a constant medium temperature is what it takes to create a beautiful-to-look-at batch that’s golden brown and well cooked on the inside. Before you start to drop your batter in the pot, make sure the oil is suitably heated and not too cool.
6. Utensils that don’t help with roundness
It’s only really a proper fishcake if it’s round. To achieve the perfect roundness, dip a tablespoon in oil before using it to transfer your batter to the frying oil. Your batter will roll right off and create beautiful little balls. Some people also prefer to use an icecream scoop for more roundness but I’ve found that a tablespoon works just as fine.
7. Pot choices
You’ll need a pot or pan with good depth to keep the fishcakes round and to cook them evenly. Make sure your pot allows you to submerge the fishcakes in oil, and remember to drain on paper towels after you’ve taken them out.
Make sure you fry fishcakes in a pot that’s deep enough
Got a tip for making delicious fishcakes? Feel free to leave a comment.