At breakfast time in Cambodia, you'll find locals starting the day with the same colourful bowl of noodles, num banh chok. This revitalising dish varies across the country, and this version is one of the most popular: rice noodles topped with fish curry, served with crisp raw vegetables and vibrant herbs.
- 1 tbsp peeled and thinly sliced galangal
- 1 tbsp pickled gratchai
- 4 makrut lime leaves
- 1 kg whole monkfish, cleaned, skin and head removed
- 1 litre coconut cream
- 55 g (¼ cup) sugar
- 150 ml-200 ml fish sauce
- 1 packet bun noodles (rice vermicelli noodles)
- 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and sliced
- 4 large red chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained and sliced
- 25 g galangal, peeled and sliced
- 100 g fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
- 4 makrut lime leaves
- 1 tsp pickled gratchai
- 100 g snake beans, thinly sliced
- 500 g bean shoots
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint
- 1 bunch Thai basil
- 3 cups thinly sliced white cabbage
- 1 banana blossom, thinly sliced
- 5 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. Place 3 litres of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Once boiling, add the galangal, gratchai and lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the fish and cook for 10 minutes or until just cooked. Remove the fish from the liquid and set aside. Strain the stock and discard the solids. When the fish is cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones, being careful not to leave any bones in the meat.
2. Meanwhile, for the curry paste, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms.
3. In a large mortar and pestle, pound the fish meat into a smooth paste, then add the curry paste and pound together.
4. Bring the stock back to the boil. Add the fish mixture, then simmer gently for 20 -30 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the top. Add the coconut cream, sugar and fish sauce, then simmer for another 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil over high heat. Add the noodles and bring back to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave for a further 5 minutes, then drain and run under cold water. Stand in the colander to drain.
6. Let's put the noodles together! Arrange the salad garnish ingredients on a large platter. Place some noodles in each bowl, ladle over the fish curry and serve, with people helping themselves to the salad.
Diana Chan and guests explore the flavours of Asia from her Melbourne home in the second series of Asia Unplated.