Fish cakes and fritters are very popular in the South Pacific. Tongans usually add yam (ufi) or sweet potato (kumala) to the poached fish. Any kind of fresh fish will do: halibut, whitefish, cod, sole, snapper, or tuna. Tongan homemakers prepare fritters with leftovers from sashimi or coconut cooked fish, and you can buy them fresh made at the local Farmer’s Market (Talamahu). I made lots of potato pancakes from ufi (pronounced oo-fee), a local root of the yam family that grows up to 6 feet in length and is prized among Tongans for gift-giving. At the annual celebration of the King’s birthday, a ceremony is conducted where the village chiefs count the number of ufi presented to the King. The sound off of numbers in Tongan is very loud and dramatic… taaaa ‘ha (one), uuuuu ‘a (two)… ten is an impressive number (hungafu’lo). The King’s palace keeps some of the ufi and the Queen distributes the rest to the villagers, the prison and homes for the disabled. Tonga is one of the last monarchies in the world. It’s located southeast of Fiji in the sub-tropical zone of the South Pacific. It’s also the hub of Polynesia with beautiful tall coconut tanned people.
For this recipe you can use American yam or potatoes. Serve with a lemon-aioli, tartar sauce, mango chutney, raita, or fresh chipotle salsa.
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh fish fillets
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 2 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp white pepper, divided
- 1 cup flat beer
- 2 1/2 cups yam or potatoes, cooked and mashed
- 1/3 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup flour
- oil for deep frying
Simmer the fish with onion, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and beer until the fish flakes (about 20 minutes). Drain and flake with a fork. Beat the mashed yam or potato with the half-and-half, remaining salt, and pepper until fluffy. Blend in the flaked fish, roll into 2-inch balls and dust with flour. Deep-fry in hot oil (375° F.) until golden brown. Drain on a rack over paper to catch the drips. Serve warm with parsley garnish and lemon wedges.