- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 7 large garlic cloves, 1 minced, 6 thinly sliced
- 2 pounds skinless halibut or cod fillet, finely chopped by hand (about 3 cups)
- 1 1/4 cups fine dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 large head of green leaf lettuce, separated into leaves
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of mint, separated into small sprigs and large leaves
- 1 bunch of basil, separated into small sprigs and large leaves
- 1 bunch of cilantro, separated into small sprigs and large leaves
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- Nuoc Cham Sauce
- In a food processor, combine the 2 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with the eggs, red curry paste, sugar, fish sauce, shallot, the minced garlic cloves and 1/2 cup of the chopped halibut and process until a fairly smooth paste forms.
- Put the remaining chopped halibut in a large bowl. Add the fish paste, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs and the white pepper and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or overnight.
- In a medium saucepan, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook over moderately low heat until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a small plate.
- Add enough oil to the pan to reach 2 inches up the sides and heat the oil to 300°. Meanwhile, spread the remaining 1 cup of bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. With your hands, gently form the fish mixture into 18 oval cakes. Dredge the cakes in the bread crumbs until lightly coated. Set a wire rack over a large baking sheet.
- Fry 4 fish cakes at a time, turning them a few times, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat to keep the oil at 300°. Drain the fish cakes on a wire rack set over a large baking sheet. Transfer the fish cakes to a platter and sprinkle the fried garlic chips on top.
- Arrange the lettuce leaves, cucumber and herbs on a large platter. Put the bean sprouts and Nuoc Cham Sauce in separate bowls. Place a fish cake in a lettuce leaf, add a few slices of cucumber, herb sprigs and bean sprouts and roll up to make a package. Dip in the Nuoc Cham and eat.
The fish cake mixture can be refrigerated overnight.
The spicy red curry paste in these cakes needs a white wine with some heft and richness, which the French grape variety Viognier tends to take on when it's grown in California's warm climate.