1½ pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as cod, sea bass, halibut, or red snapper, skin removed
6 slices fresh ginger, smashed with the flat side of a knife
3 tablespoons rice wine or sake
2 large fennel bulbs, (about 1½ lbs.), stalks and root base trimmed, leaving bulb with 1/8 inch of stem
1½ teaspoons olive or canola oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
½ cup scallions, white and green parts (about 3-4)
6 cups good quality store-bought chicken stock, preferably low-sodium
½ cup rice wine or sake
½ pound somen, angel hair, or other thin noodles
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ cup Thai holy basil or sweet basil leaves, chopped or finely shredded
1. Using a sharp knife, cut the fish into chunks, about 1½ inches square. Place the fish in one bowl. Add the ginger and rice wine and toss lightly to coat. Cut each fennel bulb in half lengthwise. With the cut side down, cut each half into slices about ¼-inch thick.
2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add the noodles, and cook until near tender or al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under warm, running water.
3. Heat the oil in a large soup pot until hot over high heat, about 20 seconds. Add the garlic and scallions and stir-fry over high heat until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the chicken stock and rice wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fennel, and partially cover the pot. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fennel is almost tender. Discard the ginger slices from the fish and add the fish chunks with the marinade to the pot. Cover and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until the fish pieces flake when prodded with a knife. Divide the noodles among the serving bowls.
4. Add the fish sauce, black pepper, lemon juice and fresh basil, and stir gently to marry the flavors. Taste for seasoning, adding more fish sauce if it needs salt. Ladle the soup over the noodles and serve.
Variation: Substitute striped bass, tilapia, haddock, shrimp or scallops for the cod, cooking the fish until it is flaky, and the shrimp and scallops until they are firm and completely cooked.