Penang is a small island off the coast of Malaysia near the border with southern Thailand. Despite its small size, it has had a large culinary influence within Asia. The region is famed for its fiery hot curries and spectacular seafood dishes. There are many regional variations of the famous laksa soup; this one was one of my favorites.
– 2in (5cm) fresh root ginger, grated.
– 2 tbsp tamarind pulp.
– 1 tsp sea salt.
– 1lb (450g) whole red snapper, skinned.
– 4 dried chilies, crushed.
– 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer.
– leaves discarded.
– 2 fresh red jalapeño or serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped.
– 8 shallots, peeled.
– 2 tbsp shrimp paste, roasted.
– 6oz (165g) dried rice noodles, about.
– ¼in (5mm) wide.
– 8oz (225g) fresh crabmeat.
– 8oz (225g) peeled and deveined.
– fresh prawns.
– juice of 2 limes.
– 15 Thai basil leaves.
– ½ cucumber, cut into matchstick-size pieces.
– 8oz (225g) fresh pineapple, cut into.
– matchstick-size pieces.
– handful of fresh mint leaves.
Step 2: Meanwhile, soak the dried chilies in a little boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft, then remove and discard the seeds. Soak the seeded chilies in a fresh batch of hot water for another 10 minutes. Drain and finely chop. Thinly slice the lemongrass. Process the lemongrass and dried and fresh chilies to a paste. Add 6 of the shallots, the roast shrimp paste, and a little fish stock. Process until very smooth. Scrape into a saucepan and cover with the remaining fish stock. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.
Step 3: Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 5 minutes. Bring another pan of water to a boil, drain the noodles, and cook in a boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain, then run the noodles under cold water to remove excess starch.
Step 4: Return the fish to the simmering stock, add the crabmeat and prawns, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of tamarind pulp, lime juice, and basil. Check the seasoning. Divide the noodles among warmed bowls, and top each with equal portions of fish, shellfish, and broth. Garnish each bowl with cucumber, pineapple, mint, and the remaining shallots cut into slivers.