SERVES FOUR TO FIVE
- 3 medium-hot fresh red chilies, seeded
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 5 ml / 1 tsp mild paprika
- 10 ml / 2 tsp fermented shrimp paste
- 25 ml / 1½ tbsp chopped fresh root ginger or galangal
- 250 g / 9 oz small red shallots
- 25 g / 1 oz fresh coriander (cilantro), preferably with roots
- 45 ml / 3 tbsp ground nut (peanut) oil
- 5 ml / 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 2 fennel bulbs, cut into thin wedges
- 600 ml / 1 pint / 2½ cups fish stock
- 300 g / 11 oz thin vermicelli rice noodles
- 450 ml / ¾ pint / scant 2 cups coconut milk
- juice of 1-2 limes
- 30-45 ml / 2-3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
- 450 g / 1 lb firm white fish fillet, such as monkfish, halibut, or snapper
- 450 g / 1 lb large raw prawns (shrimp) (about 20), peeled and deveined
- small bunch of fresh holy basil or ordinary basil
- 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- Put the chilies, garlic, paprika, shrimp paste, ginger or galangal, and 2 shallots in a food processor, blender, or spice grinder and process to a paste. Remove the roots and stems from the coriander and add them to the paste; chop and reserve the coriander leaves. Add 15 ml / 1 tbsp of the oil to the paste and process again until fairly smooth.
- Heat the remaining oil in a large pan. Add the remaining shallots, the fennel seeds and fennel wedges. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, then add 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the spice paste and stir-fry for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the fish stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the vermicelli rice noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Add the coconut milk and the juice of 1 lime to the pan of shallots. Stir in 30 ml / 2 tbsp of the fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and taste, adding a little more spice paste, lime juice or fish sauce as necessary.
- Cut the fish into chunks and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the prawns and cook until they turn pink. Chop most of the basil and add to the pan with the reserved coriander.
- Divide the noodles among wide bowls, then ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with spring onions and the remaining whole basil leaves. Serve immediately.