Laksa Penang

by Ray McVinnie | Cuisine issue #63
Serves: 4-6.

500g fresh Laksa noodles (thick rice vermicelli)

Gravy
1kg whole fresh mackerel, gutted and scaled (fish like snapper or gurnard are also suitable)
5 cups water
1 large onion
6-10 dried red chillies, soaked 10 minutes in hot water, drained and chopped
6 tablespoons tamarind pulp concentrate
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dried bunga katan (dried pink ginger bud or Laksa flowers)
6-8 fresh daun kesum (Laksa leaves or Vietnamese mint)

Wash the fish inside and out. Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan or wok and add the fish. Simmer until the fish is cooked but not disintegrating. Carefully remove the fish from the water; skin and remove the flesh. Put the skin, head and bones back into the water, bring to the boil and simmer 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, clean the saucepan or wok and put the fish stock back in and bring to the boil. Flake the flesh and set aside.

Purée the onion and chillies with 1 cup of the stock and add the purée to the stock in the wok or saucepan. Add the tamarind, salt, bunga kantan, flaked fish and daun kesum and bring to the boil. Simmer 2 minutes, taste and add more salt or tamarind if necessary.

To serve, pour boiling water over the noodles and drain immediately. Put some noodles into each bowl and ladle over plenty of gravy. Serve sliced red onions, cucumber, red chillis, thinly sliced Chinese celery (or the thin top stalks of ordinary celery), and slices of lime. Serve with a side dish of Heiko if it's available.

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