An oval can of fried dace is a standard pantry item in many Chinese households. My mother used to open a can whenever she thought she needed one more dish for a family meal – usually, she just steamed the fried dace; my brothers and I loved the soft, edible bones. Occasionally, she would stir-fry the fish – with all the oily, delicious juices from the can – with Chinese kale or lettuce. But the fish is also excellent in this East-meets-West pasta dish. If you like, mix in a couple of handfuls of arugula just before serving, and let the greens wilt in the residual heat.
Halve and thinly slice the shallots and roughly chop the garlic. Slice the bird’s-eye chilli in half lengthwise and scrape out and discard the seeds before cutting the flesh into thin pieces. Slice the banana chilli on the diagonal into 3mm (⅛in) rings, and cut the spring onions into 5mm (¼in) pieces.
Heat a large pot of salted water over a high flame and when it boils, add the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, cook the ingredients, trying to time them so they are ready when the pasta is al dente. Open the can of dace and spoon off about 30ml (1tbsp) of oil into a wok or skillet. Place the wok or skillet over a high flame and when the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic. Cook until fragrant, stirring often, then add the bird’s-eye and banana chillies. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the panko and stir until the breadcrumbs start to brown. Add the dace and spring onions and mix gently, breaking up the fish into bite-sized pieces. Season to taste with salt.
When the linguine is al dente, ladle about 120ml (½ cup) of the pasta cooking water into a heatproof measuring cup. Drain the pasta in a colander. Add about 60ml (¼cup) of the pasta cooking water to the wok or skillet, bring to a simmer and stir well. Add the drained linguine and gently lift and mix the pasta so it is coated with the sauce and ingredients. The sauce should lightly coat the pasta; if it seems dry, mix in more of the pasta cooking water. Season with freshly ground black pepper and more salt, if necessary. Mix again, then divide the pasta between three plates. Serve immediately.