SOUR NOODLE SOUP
For this scented northern noodle soup you really need access to wild ginger flower (bunga kantan). Though the dish will taste good without it there is no substitute for its distinctive scent.
1 lb (500g) fine-fleshed fish (short-bodied mackerel, tommy ruff, garfish, sand whiting)
4 cups (1 liter water)
3-4 dried tamarind slices or 1-1½ cups (250-375 ml) tamarind water (if you use this alternative reduce the plain water component to 3 cups [750 ml])
1 wild ginger flower (bunga kantan), sliced
8 stalks knotweed or Vietnamese mint (daun kesum)
1-2 teaspoons sugar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb (500 g) fresh thick, round, rice noodles (laksa) or 1 packet dried coarse rice vermicelli
6-10 dried chilies, seeded, soaked in warm water until soft and squeezed dry
2 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced
2 slices galangal root, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
½-in (1½-cm) piece turmeric root, peeled and coarsely chopped or 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons shrimp paste, roasted in foil
15 shallots, sliced
1 small handful mint sprigs or leaves
½ small pineapple, cut into strips 2 x ¼ in (5 x ½ cm)
1 pickling cucumber, cut in four lengthwise then sliced across, or into short julienne strips
2 Spanish onions, sliced into rings
4 medium-length red chilies, sliced into rounds
Wash and scale the fish and poach it in 2 cups (500 ml) of water until cooked. Remove, cool, and flake off the flesh. Discard the bones, head, fins, etc., and set the stock and the flaked flesh aside.
Grind all the Spice Paste ingredients to a paste. Add 1 cup (250 ml) of water and process until well mixed. Pour this water into a saucepan, add the remaining plain water, the dried tamarind slices or tamarind water, the wild ginger flower, and the knotweed. Simmer gently until fragrant. Add the fish stock, sugar and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the knotweed, add the flaked fish and return to a boil.
Prepare the noodles according to the instructions in Noodles in Coconut Milk Soup. Put serving of noodles in individual bowls, place Garnishes on top (except for the chili) and pour the soup over. Serve the chili rounds on the table for diners to help themselves.