Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guyanese-style Fish Cakes with Mango Sour

Last week my husband and I went to a dinner party at a friends house and I decided to bring over a popular appetizer I grew up eating- these delicious fish cakes.  They remind me so much of Queens, NY.  Anytime I was out running errands on the weekends and happened to be on Liberty avenue, I'd stop into a local West Indian bakery and buy two of these fish cakes to keep me going until dinner time.  They would come with a side of mango sour which made the taste just out of this world. The tangy sauce with the spicy fish cake was just too delicious for me.  Mom used to make them for parties and get-togethers at our house as well. I remember them being simple to make and very filling.  A good fish cake for me has to be spicy, have good flavor, and contain more fish than filling (potato), pour a little mango sour on top, grab me a cream soda, and I'm a happy girl.
The great thing about fish cakes is that they are completely versatile and can be seasoned any way you like.  There's even more versatility in the types of fish you can use.  Any type of white flaky fish or even something with a little firmness will work well.  Saltfish (salted cod) is a popular choice and is what's traditionally used, just be sure to remove the bones.  I recall the one bad experience I had with fish cakes a few years ago.  I purchased a couple of pieces from a local Queens bakery which shall remain nameless (since I don't entertain bad-talking) and I remember taking a bite of the fish cake and a bone went straight into my gum- yea it was a complete turn off.  This particular bakery used saltfish, but was not careful to remove all of the bones.  If you're going to use this type of fish, your best bet is to go boneless, it will save you (and anyone eating them) a lot of headache or toothache, which ever you prefer :).

Types of fish that will work:
  • King fish
  • Snapper 
  • Tilapia
  • Flounder
  • Trout
  • Whiting 
  • Grouper
  • Perch
  • Porgy
  • Striped bass
  • Trout
  • Catfish
  • Boneless salted cod (saltfish)

These are some pretty good options to choose from, but don't feel limited to anything on this list.  If you like another type of fish or would like to experiment, go ahead and use something else or even combine one or two types (saltfish and tilapia are great together)- and don't forget to let us know how it turned out :).

You'll need about 2lbs of fish. I used tilapia fillets since that's what I had available.  Wash and pat dry fish with paper towels. Place on a greased baking sheet or line your pan with aluminum foil to help with the clean up. 

Season fish how you like. I sprinkled black pepper, salt, and some Cajun seasoning. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until completely cooked. 

Place fish in a deep bowl and flake with a fork.

Add desired seasonings. I added salt, Old bay, garlic powder, and lime juice. 

I always have a batch of this seasoning in my refrigerator. I use it to season meat, fish, and rice among many other things.  It's simply one large yellow onion, one head of garlic, peeled, 2-3 wiri wiri peppers (you can use scotch bonnets or red chili peppers), and fresh thyme leaves. Blend with 1/4 cup of water to make the puree. Store in an air-tight glass jar. 

Chop up 1-2 scallions, wiri wiri pepper, and desired amount of freshly chopped onion and garlic or a couple of tablespoons of the pureed onion-garlic seasoning above.  If you are making this eggless, I recommend using the pureed onion-garlic seasoning because it will give the mixture a good texture. Chopped onion and garlic will need an egg in the mix to help keep it together. You can also add any fresh herbs that you like to this mix. 

Mix in scallions, pepper, and chopped or pureed onion/garlic- which ever you are using. 

Mix thoroughly. 

Peel and chop two medium potatoes.  Boil until potato is cooked, but still has a give to it when pricked with a fork  meaning, it doesn't fall apart easily. Mash immediately after draining. For a variation, cassava can also be used in place of the potato. 

Add enough mashed potato, a little at a time so that you can form a ball.  If you have a little potato left over, then add some butter and salt and eat it whenever you want. Taste fish cake mixture to see if you desire any other seasonings. 

Form into little disc shapes. I got about 10 cakes out of this mixture. 

Options for coating

For eggless: Immediately after forming cakes, press cake firmly into breadcrumbs to coat. Get ready to pan fry. 

Using eggs: beat one egg, add 1 tsp water and mix.  Add fish cake to egg mixture, coat on both sides then immediately place in bowl with breadcrumbs. Coat on both sides.

Heat a shallow frying pan with enough oil to pan fry.  Place cakes in pan, leaving enough room to turn them over. Cook until they are golden brown.  For eggless cakes, turn only once or twice, fish cake will be slightly soft when frying since there are no eggs, but once it cools down it will stiffen up. 

Here is a photo of the fish cake without eggs (and just breadcrumbs). Golden brown and crispy!

Here is a photo of the fish cake coated with eggs (and breadcrumbs). The crust is thicker because of the egg.  Equally as yummy! 

These fish cakes make wonderful bite-sized appetizers as well, serve 'em up at your next get-together!

Fish Cakes
Makes about 10 pieces


  • 2lbs white flaky fish - seasoned as desired
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tsp lime or lemon juice
  • 1-2 scallions, chopped finely
  • freshly chopped herbs (optional)
  • desired amount of hot pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp onion-garlic puree or desired amount of onion/garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes or cassava (yuca)
  • 1 egg + 1 tsp water (optional)
  •  1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Oil for frying
Mango Sauce: See recipe here


  1. Wash fish and pat dry with paper towels. Place fish on a baking sheet and season as desired-I sprinkled black pepper, salt, Cajun seasoning. 
  2. Bake fish at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Place fish in bowl, flake, and add dry seasonings- mix thoroughly. Add chopped scallions, pepper, onions, garlic (or onion-garlic puree)- mix and set aside. 
  4. Peel and chop potatoes.  Boil until potatoes are cooked, but not falling apart. Mash immediately after draining. 
  5. Add enough mashed potato, a little at a time to form a ball.  Taste mixture and adjust seasoning to suit. Shape into small discs.
  6. If using eggs: beat together one egg and 1 tsp water.  Add fish cake to egg mixture, coat on both sides then immediately place in bowl with breadcrumbs. Coat on both sides. Heat enough oil in a shallow frying pan on medium heat and fry until golden brown on both sides. 
  7. If not using eggs: after shaping into discs, press firmly into breadcrumb coating on both sides, and fry immediately in a shallow pan until golden brown.  
  8. Top with mango sour and enjoy. 

  • Eggless fish cake will be slightly soft while frying, so be careful when turning them in the frying pan, once cooled, they will become stiffer. 
  • If using saltfish (salted cod), be sure to boil fish twice to remove salt.  Boil once, drain, add more water to cover fish and boil again.  You can also soak fish overnight in enough water to cover the fish. Flake fish, then continue with recipe. 
  • Keep heat on medium when frying; the breadcrumbs can burn quickly.  Peanut oil is a good option to use for frying as it can withstand high temperatures for a long time without burning. If you don't have any on hand, vegetable oil or canola oil will work fine. 


  1. Nice Alicia - thanks for this recipe, I sometimes sub the potato with cassava and it's so yum too :)

    1. Thanks! That's a wonderful tip, I will go back and add it to the recipe as a variation, someone else might like that idea too!

  2. I'm looking forward to trying this; my mother-in-law's are very different from your recipe. Hers are shaped into logs about the length of my middle finger, and maybe an inch around. Always made with salt cod, lots of potato, and there's nothing other than a bit of pepper, some garlic, and green onions. She doesn't do the breadcrumbs, either. Just rolls them in flour, bakes them a bit to dry them out, then pan fries them to make them brown up. Served with a side of rice and dhal, it's my husband's favourite meal, and definitely one of mine.

    1. Hi there,

      Yes, I know the kind your mother-in-law makes! That is how they are sold in the West Indian bakeries. They look like logs, like you said. They are so delicious with dhal and rice, Mmmm.

  3. Great minds think alike. My column next week is on Fish Cakes :) will definitely link to yours when I send out the newsletter.

  4. The Portuguese shops sell them too - cod fish cakes, I have some filets of sole in the freezer that I didn't care to cook because it is such a bland fish, I will definitely use it for my fish cakes that I will be making on Good Friday - can't wait to try out this recipe.....looks delicious, have to pick up mango as well to complete the dish ;)

  5. Thank you for this recipe, keep the awesome work up :-)

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes. I made fish cake today, and it came out pretty delicious lol. Everyone in Fam loved it 😀