Tricolor Asian Noodles and Spicy Seafood Sauce

Serves 2

The foundation of this dish is a mélange of thin white Asian-style noodles, julienned raw carrots and green onions which are topped with assorted seafood that has been seasoned with velvety but pungent Thai-style sauce. The noodles are mild in flavor and serve as a foil for the spicy seafood sauce. The spiciness of that sauce can be adjusted up or down to suit your taste.

You'll need to have a Thai grocery store in your area to find the basic ingredients used in this recipe. If you don't, you might try contacting the Bangkok Grocery in San Francisco to inquire if they'll ship. If you have the ingredients easily accessible, this is a simple yet lively one-dish Sunday Supper.

The components of the dish are cooked separately and come together in the final assembly. Start by preparing the noodles and let them cool while you prepare the other components. This dish is best served at room temperature.

Four-step Preparation

1. Noodles

2. Seafood Sauce

1/2 tsp shrimp paste (amount used depends on your taste; start with 1/2 tsp and add gradually)
2 large or 4 small cloves garlic
1 hot chili pepper or more if a spicier sauce is desired
2-3 TBS water or enough to make a paste

Set aside this shrimp paste purée.

2 stalks lemon grass, thinly sliced
4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, julienned
1/3 cup fish sauce
juice from 2 fresh limes
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS Thai or Chinese-style chili sauce
1/3 cup water

Put these ingredients into a saucepan and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes, while you are preparing the next step. Drain the sauce into a bowl through a coarse sieve and press the remains with the back of a wooden spoon to extract their flavorful juices.

3. Seafood

4. Final Assembly

Notes:

Bangkok Grocery: 3236 Geary Blvd,S.F., CA 94118. Telephone: (415) 221-5863.

Noodles: We used very thin Japanese-style rice noodles that come in bunches tied with a satin ribbon. These noodles are made to use in cold salads and have the right texture for this dish. But you can use any variety of dried Asian noodles as long as they are very thin and very delicate in taste and texture.

Shrimp Paste: This staple of Thai cooking, made of a puree of shrimp and salt, is dense and extremely pungent. You can find it at Thai grocery stores in small plastic jars. It's used in very, very small quantities and can be kept refrigerated for many months after opening if properly resealed. Shrimp paste is a "acquired" taste. If you haven't used it or never tried it, you might consider omitting it from this recipe.

The shrimp paste comes originally sealed under a layer of wax or oil. I make a small hole through that layer to dig out a small quantity of paste then fill the hole with a neutral oil to prevent air from permeating into the contents. This not only keeps the remaining contents fresher, but it also prevents the pungent flavor from permeating through your refrigerator.

Kaffir lime leaves: Fresh kaffir lime leaves can be found frozen in some Thai grocery stores. Dried kaffir lime leaves are more readily available, but I find that they've lost so much of their flavor that they're not worth using except in long-simmering dishes. There is no substitute for the delicate citrus flavor of fresh kaffir lime leaves in this dish!

Fresh fish: We used a combination of sturgeon and halibut. If these aren't available, select other types of strong-tasting fish that can stand up to the pungent Seafood Sauce. Squid, clams and mussels would also be suitable.

Fish Sauce: This staple of Thai cooking is made of anchovy extract, salt soy sauce and water. Use this sauce judiciously until you become accustomed its salty, fishy flavor.

Rich fish stock: If you don't have home-made fish stock in your freezer, you might be able to find it frozen in some grocery stores. But I find that commercially-made fish stock is quite thin and should be reduced to a rich thick sauce before using in this recipe.

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