Last night in the kitchen of a trim Commercial Street cape, Wellfleet met Bangkok. Surrounded by a well-kept garden and backed into a hill sloping down to Duck Creek, the kitchen was cluttered with foreign spices and the illegible packaging of Asian markets. A basil plant sat plucked bare atop the center table, and the stove spat a high blue flame.
Tiny white fish cakes hit the oil with a sputter. Rice paper wraps of spring greens, mint leaves, and cellophane noodles filled a shallow, black bowl. A dipping well of sweet mango chutney graced the table, and a puffy pastry festooned with kiwi and banana languished atop the corner hutch.
It was hardly the scene of a local feast. Crumbled peanuts had flown in from South America; the Mexican mango was just coming into season; and the sticky rice paper showcased an imported eastern market specialty. The main ingredient, however, was found locally.
The cod chopped and blended into the thod mun was straight from P-town or Chatham; wherever the day-boats had docked that morning. So local that it was hardly a moment from the sea, it nonetheless fused easily into a recipe with origins half a world away. It wasn't the base of the dish so much as the garnishes that bespoke far away harvests; with a few modifications, the Asian dish could easily be made Wellfleetian. Trade in the lime leaves for cilantro, swap the mango chutney for one of rhubarb or beach plum, serve aside a seasonal vegetable, and the transformation will be complete.
THOD MUN with CHATHAM COD
In a large mixing bowl, combine: just over 1 pound chopped cod or other local white fish, 1 egg, 1/2 cup finely sliced string beans (last year's pickled beans will do fine), 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon salt, and at least 1 tablespoon red curry paste (more to taste). Knead well by hand or blend in a food processor until sticky.
In a deep frying pan, boil 3 cups cooking oil. Form small cakes using 2 tablespoons of fish mixture, deep fry until golden brown. Serve hot with local fruit chutney.