This dish, a cross between a soup and a salad, served in a generous bowl, sums up the fun of Vietnamese cooking. And the delightful mixture of fresh fish, a spicy sauce and herbs is outstanding. It is a sort of Asian bouillabaisse, but lighter and, in fact, even more tasty.

Ingredients

  • 225 g (8 oz) barramundi fillets (failing that, use any firm white fish such as sea bream or sea bass)
  • 100 g (4 oz) uncooked (green) prawns
  • 1.5 litres ( pints) fish Thai soup stock
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 green chilli peppers, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 blade of lemon grass, finely chopped
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) evaporated milk
  • 100 g (4 oz) creamed coconut, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 50 g (2 oz) thread noodles or vermicelli
  • 1 lettuce heart, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful of beansprouts
  • fresh coriander and mint leaves
  • coriander vinegar (optional)

Method

Rinse the barramundi, bream or bass and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Now slice it into thin slivers. Shell the prawns, keeping their tails intact, then remove the vein that runs along the back.

Heat the fish stock with the fish sauce, chilli peppers, the first lot of shallots and lemon grass. When it is simmering, add the evaporated milk, creamed coconut and curry paste. Heat gently until simmering again, then throw in the slivers of fish and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the prawns and noodles and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Avoid overcooking or the fish will fall apart.

Meanwhile, put the shredded lettuce into serving bowls. Then heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and fry the second lot of shallots and garlic until crisp and golden – about 3–4 minutes. Check the seasoning of the soup, adding salt and pepper to taste, then ladle it into the bowls. Now chuck a few beansprouts on each and top with the fried shallots and garlic, adding a few coriander and mint leaves for good measure. If you like, add a dash of spicy coriander vinegar to each bowl.

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