Tandoori-spiced Salmon Cakes & Summer Veggie Pulao

Annoyingly I forgot to take photos again!  Why did I not get my mother’s take-lots-of-photos gene?!

Anyway, so I’ve been wanting to try this for a while but only got the chance this past weekend.  I’m excited to share how I’ve taken one of our favorite (and quick!) meals – Tandoori Salmon & Quick Pulao – in a fun new direction.  Wound up with Tandoori-spiced Salmon Cakes and Summer Veggie Pulao, which are now a new favorite, as well.

Chinni papa isn’t much interested in fish these days.  There was a time that she would down cod in my mother’s classic preparation (baking filets with milk, butter, Ritz crackers, salt & pepper), as well as scarf crawfish in a spicy Etouffe.  These days, however fish elicits ridiculous theatrics of head swagging, face scrunching and repeated “No’s.”  She does, however, love the yogurt marinade for the Tandoori Salmon (like her mama, she never says no to garam masala), so I’d been thinking about converting the Tandoori Salmon recipe into fish cakes or fish sticks (she’s still in her all-things-sausage stage).

I’m usually pretty experimental in the kitchen and will guesstimate my way through much of the time (probably owing a lot to food science and other tips I’ve picked up in Cook’s Illustrated), but a failed crab cakes experiment from a while back lingered in my memory, and I wanted to first look into whether the yogurt from the Tandoori Salmon recipe could act like a binder (mayo? yuck!), as well as guidance on the ratio of fish, breadcrumbs, and liquid.  I went to Cooks Illustrated where sure enough I found a recipe for Pan-fried Smoked Salmon Cakes.  Though it also called for mayo, I still referred to their ratios to inform how I would apply the favorite elements of Tandoori Salmon over to fish cakes.  I also didn’t realize that it called for smoked salmon until the cakes were in the freezer for their chill, but luckily it didn’t matter!

Good stuff.  I just may have to make it again this weekend!

Tandoori-spiced Salmon Cakes

  • 1 lb Salmon fillet (don’t forget to get it skinned! Somehow I always do, but thankfully summers at my uncle’s fish market mean I can to a quick skin at home)
  • ½ cup chopped onions (next time might mince or chop extremely small)
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger-garlic paste
  • 4 tsp yogurt (2% Fage Greek, preferred)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (not sure I’m convinced of this addition)
  • 8 tbsp wheat bread crumbs (I like to toast/grind nearly stale bakery bread and keep it in the freezer for such occasions)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 2 tsp

0) Make ginger garlic paste if you don’t have it!  Throw fresh ginger and garlic in a 1:1 ratio into a food processor until a very smooth paste.

1) Chop onions, and put in a large bowl.  Add ginger-garlic paste, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, chili powder, garam masala, parsley and breadcrumbs.  Chop salmon into small pieces (manually, lest it quickly become pulp in a processor), add to bowl and mix fully.

2) Make small patties of about 2 inch diameter, and 1/2 inch thick and place them on a waxed paper-lined plate, stacking with additional wax paper if necessary. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes, or until surface moisture has evaporated.

3) Meanwhile, set out 3 wide bowls:
a) flour,
b) beaten eggs with 2 tsp veg oil, and 2 tsp water,
c) panko

4) When salmon cakes are ready, dredge in flour and shake off excess, dip in egg mixture and let excess drip off, then coat completely in panko.  Place back on plate until all are complete.

5) Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in large, heavy-bottomed pan, over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 3 minutes.  Add salmon patties and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  Transfer cakes to plate lined with paper towels, and cook remaining patties (if they didn’t all fit).  Serve immediately (though I can say nuked the next day they were great, too).

Summer Veggie Pulao 

My recipe calls for a rice cooker, but you could adjust for stove top, as well.

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 small summer squash, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, sliced into thin long strips
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1.5 tsp garam masalsa
  • 1.5 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • dash of chili powder (I used to do green chilis, too but found it doesn’t need it)
  • salt

1)  Mix rice, veggies, stock & 1/2 cup water in rice cooker and set to cook.

2)  Meanwhile, heat a good amount of olive oil, and fry onions until just about golden.  When onions get soft, add curry leaves.  Once the onions are golden, add ginger-garlic and fry for a minute, then add spices and fry for a couple minutes.  Add a bit of salt and turn off heat.

3)  When liquid in rice is almost all evaporated, then add fried, spiced onions.  Cook for a bit longer, adding water and salt, per doneness of rice and taste.

Notes for Next Time

  • I might try to make fish sticks out of it, but putting the fish cake mixture into the food processor before the freezer.
  • Might also try either flash frying and then baking, or just baking.
  • Wondering about freezing them. Freeze raw, then thaw/cook? Probably, but in reality, I’d be freezing them in small, kid servings for nanny meals, so frying up one or 2 sticks for lunch might be silly.

So give it a while and let me know how it goes!  Enjoy!

* Cooks Illustrated – Just realized this is my second post mentioning them.  My only relationship with them is online and magazine subscriber! Expensive, but worth it, in my opinion.


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