Thai noodles with cinnamon and prawns

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It’s not often that I eat something that tastes so different to anything I’ve come across before. But this is such a dish. A mesmerically talented chef called Tum cooked it when I was on holiday in Thailand last year, and I made him cook it again and again. I just had to share this spectacularly unfamiliar but compelling recipe with you. I hope you will be as bowled over by it as I was.

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  1. On a high heat, heat the oil in a large wok. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon and the sliced leafy stems of celery, reserve the celery leaves for a garnish. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in both soy sauces and leave to simmer for 30 seconds, then stir in the oyster sauce and ground pepper.

  2. Add 100ml/3½fl oz cold water, followed by the chicken stock concentrate and the ketjap manis (or the mixture of dark soy sauce with soft brown sugar), stir until everything’s well combined and bring to the boil.

  3. Add the king prawns, immersing them in the liquid. Simmer until the prawns are cooked through. Finally, add the drained noodles and stir well – I find a couple of pasta forks, one in each hand, best for this – so that everything is combined, and most of the dark liquid is absorbed. Add the pinches of ground cinnamon and cloves, stir again, and if you’re not serving straight from the wok, pour into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with the reserved chopped celery leaves.

Recipe Tips

You do need to buy leafy celery, and even though the stalks don’t get a look-in, you chop the slender stems to which the leaves are attached and add them to the wok along with the other flavourings at the very beginning.