It has become part of today’s food culture to maximise every part of food that we cook, whether it’s making stock with prawn heads and shells or using the fish skeleton to make a poaching liquid.
Asian cuisine has been based around this style of cooking for hundreds of years, so we are going to take a leaf out of their book and use the fish head. There is a lot of delicious meat in the head of a fish (as well as the wings) and this will be the premier ingredient in our Fish Head Curry.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fish recipe when I was in Singapore and while the list of ingredients seems long, they are all items you will either have in your pantry or that can be purchased at supermarkets or Asian grocers.
Handy Hint: Scale the head and wings before cooking. This allows the flavours of the curry to marry with the fish and makes it a lot easier to eat as well.
About 2kg of fish heads, rinsed well
2 heaped tablespoons tamarind paste mixed with 1/2 cup warm water
1 small Asian eggplant, diced
1 ripe tomato, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon salt
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, sliced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
5cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
6-8 large red chillies, deseeded and sliced
12 or so golden shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
12 curry leaves (optional)
4 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups water
2 cups coconut cream (or 1cup cream and 1 cup coconut cream)
salt, to taste
To prepare the curry sauce, grind the lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, chillies, shallots and garlic to a paste in either a mortar and pestle or a food processor. If you are using a food processor, you may need to add a little oil to help form the paste.
Heat the cooking oil in a large frypan or a wok over a medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and stir-fry until they start popping, then add the chilli/spice paste, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Stir-fry until the mixture is fragrant, which will take about five minutes or so. Add the curry powder to the mixture in the wok and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
While this is happening, strain the tamarind mixture, reserving the fluid.
Add one cup of the water to the wok and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Then add the remaining water and coconut cream as well as the fish heads. Season with a little salt and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, adding the tamarind water, eggplant and tomato wedges. Continue to simmer until the fish head is cooked. The time will be dependant on the size of the fish heads that you are using. If the heads are large, you may need to turn the fish head over, carefully, after a few minutes to ensure even cooking.
To ascertain whether the Fish Head Curry is cooked, I gently test the cheek meat. When the flesh flakes, then you are ready for your feast.Reads: 2155