In a wok, fry the sliced shallots in a shallow pool of oil until brown and crisp, then drain on kitchen roll. Strain out all but 2 tbsp of the oil. Fry the chopped shallots until softened, then add the curry paste and stir-fry until the paste darkens a little. Stir in the lime leaves (if using), the sugar and fish sauce, then tip in the coconut milk and stock, and bubble up. Gently allow to murmur for about 10 minutes, so all the flavours meld, adding the aubergine halfway through (if using). Cut the fish into small chunks and pop these in too, and gently cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and half the basil and cook for a further 3 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to show signs of skin-burst. Taste, and add a dash of fish sauce if it needs salt. Ladle into bowls, scatter with the crisp shallots and remaining basil, and eat with rice.
© 2004 Alastair Hendy. All rights reserved.