For a special occasion serve creamy rice noodles in a spicy coconut-flavoured soup, topped with seafood. There is a fair amount of work involved in the preparation but you can make the soup base ahead.
Blacan is dried shrimp or prawn paste. It is sold in small blocks and you will find it in oriental supermarkets.
4 red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 piece blacan, the size of a stock cube
1 lemon grass stalk, chopped
1 small piece fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
6 macadamia nuts or almonds
60 ml (4 tbsp) vegetable oil
5 ml (1 tsp) paprika
5 ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric
475 ml (16 fl oz) 2 cups stock or water
600 ml (1 pint) 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
fish sauce (see method)
12 king prawns, peeled and deveined
225 g (8 oz) prepared squid, cut into rings
350 g (12 oz) rice vermicelli or rice noodles, soaked in warm water until soft
salt and freshly ground black pepper
lime halves, to serve
for the garnish
1/4 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 red chillies, seeded and finely sliced
30 ml (2 tbsp) mint leaves
30 ml (2 tbsp) fried shallots or onions
1. In a blender or food processor, process the chillies, onion, blacan, lemon grass, ginger and nuts until smooth in texture.
2. Heat 45 ml (3 tbsp) of the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chilli paste and fry for 6 minutes. Stir in the paprika and turmeric and fry for about 2 minutes more.
3. Add the stock or water and the coconut milk to the pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 - 20 minutes. Season to taste with fish sauce.
4. Season the seafood with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the seafood and fry quickly for 2 - 3 minutes until cooked.
5. Add the noodles to the soup and heat through. Divide among individual serving bowls. Place the fried seafood on top, then garnish with the cucumber, chillies, mint and fried shallots or onions. Serve with the limes.
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