I would choose fish cakes over meatballs at any occasion. They are light, delicate, and incredibly tender. Meat, fish, grain, and vegetable patties are insanely popular across German cuisine. It’s said that the American hamburger was invented by putting German meatballs on a slice of bread.
Now, a fish cake or meatball is quite different from how you would prepare a burger. For these, plain minced meat won’t do it. You need to loosen the batter with bread cubes and season it with spices. I know that it is maybe a bastardization of American cuisine but in my family, we always prepare burgers with Germans-style meatballs or fish cakes rather than plain meat. The burgers are just so much juicier and more flavorful that way.
But for these fish cakes, you won’t need any toasted bread slices. Although you could make a sandwich out of them, I like to enjoy them plain with cucumber yogurt. It’s a popular condiment in Germany and similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce. I don’t add any garlic to my cucumber yogurt for two reasons:
- Not everything has to have garlic in it to taste good. I think it’s an overused ingredient by many. Garlic has a very strong flavor that can overpower a lot of the more subtle notes.
- Raw garlic makes the yogurt very pungent. The fishcakes already have white pepper in them so they are a little spicy. The cucumber yogurt should provide a contrast to that.
The right choice of fish for fish cakes
Cod is my preferred choice for fish cakes but you can use any white fish fillet that you prefer. Pollock or tilapia would work evenly well. You shouldn’t use any expensive fish with a superior texture and flavor. The fish gets chopped and seasoned with pungent spices like mustard, capers, and white pepper. So the fish doesn’t need to be flavorful, to begin with. It’s ok if it is neutral in taste.
I chop the fish by hand with two cleavers but you can use your food processor if you like. Just make sure to keep the texture a little coarse and don’t blitz the fish too smooth. It’s ok if the fish is a little chunky. That will give the fish cakes a better texture.
The milk-soaked bread roll cubes won’t be enough to bind the batter sufficiently. It is too wet to hold together by itself. That’s why you have to add some breadcrumbs. I specify 1-2 tablespoons in my recipe. That’s enough for the batter to just come together. It’s very tender at this stage but it should hold its shape nicely. If you add too many breadcrumbs, your fish cakes won’t be as juicy and tender.
When frying fish cakes, always use enough oil. They need to be almost shallow fried for the best results. A lot of novice cooks make the mistake and add too little oil to the pan. The fish cakes then burn on the surface before they are cooked in the center. It’s an important lesson I had to learn too. Adding too little oil to a cooking pan means unevenly cooked food that is always at risk of burning. Just because you’re using more oil, doesn’t mean it all gets absorbed into your food. Once the crust of fried foods has formed, there is no increased oil uptake.
It’s best to enjoy these fish cakes with a salad on the side such as: