Sri Lankan Fish Croquettes

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

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Fish croquettes—or “cutlets,” as we say in Sri Lanka—are a beloved tea-time or evening drink snack. They’re usually made from tinned fish: perfect for quarantine! The filling is spicy with green chillies, turmeric and black pepper.




200g tinned fish
100g nice waxy potatoes
1 medium red onion
4 to 5 green chilies, seeds removed
1 garlic clove
1 cm fresh ginger
2 limes
10 curry leaves
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds



1 egg
250g panko breadcrumbs
oil for frying 



2 handfuls fresh dill
2 handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tsp cumin
1 lime
salt to taste


1. Peel potatoes, and boil in a little turmeric and salt for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. Mince garlic and ginger, and finely slice green chilies, curry leaves, and onions. 

3. Fry onions in oil. When golden, add curry leaves, and after 1 minute, turmeric and salt. After 2 minutes, add the fish and the rest of the filling ingredients and stir well, cooking for 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from heat and cool.

4. Smash cooled potatoes by hand, not too fine. Stir the smashed potatoes into the fish mix.

5. Roll mixture into little balls, about one inch wide. Place on a plate in the fridge to cool and set.

6. Put the sambol ingredients in a blender and blitz. Serve in a small dipping dish. 

8. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add a ½ tsp turmeric to the panko in a second bowl.

9. Remove the potato fish balls from fridge. Heat a 1 to 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan for deep frying. Dip the balls in yolk, then roll in panko, and carefully lower into the hot oil with a slotted spoon. When golden (about 1 to 2 minutes), remove from the pan and place on a kitchen towel.

Serve hot with sambol!

Recipe by Cynthia Shanmugalingam

“My earliest memories of eating these traditional croquettes are from parties my parents threw in the ’80s. Women looking glam in sarees and big hair handed out trays of these fish cutlets, and other snacks like meat patties and crunchy lentil fritters while everyone drank whiskey and Coca Cola, and danced to baila—Sri Lankan calypso. Fish cutlets are a beloved tea-time or evening drink snack, spicy with green chilies, turmeric, and pepper.”

CYNTHIA SHANMUGALINGAM is a British-Sri Lankan cook who grew up eating delicious traditional food adapted by her mother and grandmother. The big flavors of Sri Lanka have been long overshadowed her larger neighbor, India, and Shanmugalingam is on a mission to change that. Combining the influences of Javanese, Malay, Indian, Moorish, Portuguese, African, Dutch and British cuisines, she has run pop-ups and street food stalls since 2017 to realize her dream of opening a Sri Lankan restaurant in London called Rambutan.

May 22, 2020. Photo by Cynthia Shanmugalingam.

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