Fishcake, or fish cake, can refer to many different types of seafood dishes, but in general, it refers to a fried patty consisting of fish, potato, and bread crumbs or batter. A traditional fishcake is made with a salted fish, such as cod or haddock, although there are many variations that use other types of fish or shellfish. Fishcakes are commonly available in fish and chips restaurants, although the dish is served in restaurants throughout Europe and Eastern Asia.
According to some food historians, fishcake originated in 19th century England as a way of using leftover fish and potatoes. Since then, fishcake has become a common staple of fish and chips restaurants, but it has also been transformed into a gourmet appetizer and meal at many seafood restaurants and fine dining establishments. In particular, the use of higher quality seafood such as salmon or jumbo lump crab meat, along with spices, herbs, and other ingredients, separates the original recipe from more recent variations.
Some people compare fishcake to a croquette, but they are actually quite different from each other. A croquette is a fried roll containing a mixture of minced meat or fish, soaked bread, egg, onion, spices, milk or beer, and filling. Although a croquette made with fish might resemble a fishcake, the typical flavors and textures of each are quite different. In fact, a fishstick and a croquette are more alike than a fishcake and croquette. The geographic regions where croquettes and fishcakes are served also differ substantially.
Preparing a fishcake is relatively simple. It requires some sort of flaked fish or similar seafood as well as mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, and pepper. A basic fishcake is made by mixing the ingredients, forming the mixture into cakes, and frying them in a skillet containing heated oil.
Some recipes call for other ingredients, such as parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, or old bay seasoning, as well as mustard, Worcester sauce, or even cheese. Many cooks use fancier types of seafood in their fishcakes, which should then be called clam cakes, crab cakes, or salmon burgers. The name of the fishcake is determined by the type of fish used, and many recipes are called cod fish cake, haddock fish cake, or any number of name variations, depending on the fillet of fish used. One benefit of making fishcakes is that because they were designed to use up leftover ingredients, they are very simple, inexpensive, quick, and easy to make.