Fish head curry is a great dish to have at family or friend gatherings, especially since it is usually of a decent serving size and is served with loads of goodness – ladies’ fingers, brinjals, tomatoes, coconut and curry gravy etc, the last of which is great to have with plain rice. There are many different flavours of fish head curry, including the sweeter version of Chinese fish head curry with coconut cream and the sour asam version of Indian fish head curry which contains pineapple slices and lime juice.
I am hereby attempting the Indian version of asam fish head curry which is supposed to be spicier and more sour than the Chinese version. Remember to get a fresh and meaty fish head from the wet market (e.g. that of a red snapper) because this is one of the most important determinants of a great fish head curry dish.
Ingredients (Fish head curry paste):
- Chilli paste: 100g
- Ginger: 40g
- Garlic: 10
- Shallot: 150g
- Lemon grass: 2 stalks
- Turmeric powder: 3 tbsp
- Red snapper fish head: 1, washed and descaled
- Oil: 2 tbsp
- Mustard seed: 1 tbsp
- Fenugreek seed: 1 tbsp
- Curry leave: a handful (about 30 leaves)
- Fish curry powder: 4 tbsp
- Water: 500ml
- Tamarind paste: 3 tbsp tamarind + 6 tbsp water
- Coconut cream: 200ml
- Calamansi: 2
- Sugar: 3 tbsp
- Salt: 1 tbsp
- Brinjal: 1, cut into chunks
- Ladies’ finger: 6, halved
- Pineapple: 150g, sliced
- Tomato: 3, quartered
- Blend chilli paste, ginger, garlic, shallot, lemon grass and turmeric powder together to form a paste. Set aside.
- Steam fish head for 10 min.
- While the fish head is being steamed, heat oil in wok.
- Fry mustard seeds for 1 min.
- Add the blended chilli paste and fenugreek seeds. Stir-fry for another 1 min.
- Add curry leaves and curry powder. Stir-fry for another 1 min.
- Add water and tamarind paste. Stir to mix evenly.
- Add coconut cream, calamansi juice, sugar and salt. Stir to mix evenly.
- Add brinjal, ladies’ finger and pineapple. Leave to simmer for 5 min.
- Place steamed fish head into curry gravy. Add in tomatoes.
- Spoon gravy over fish head and leave to simmer for another 1 min.
- Serve hot with rice.
- A Youtube video actually advocates that the whole fish be submerged inside a humongous pot of curry gravy so that the fish meat can become very tender and soft. I don’t have such a huge pot at home but do give it a try if you have because this is definitely the more authentic way of cooking fish head curry at the local Indian restaurants.