This iconic Singaporean & Malaysian favourite combines the rich spices of South Indian cuisine, the tangy flavour of tamarind and the creamy goodness of coconut milk with deliciously tender fish head, a delicacy among the Chinese.
Wash the fish head and remove all the scales if any. Pat dry and rub 1/4 tsp salt all over the fish head and set aside for later use.
Remove the skin from the shallots, onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger. Then cut the turmeric, ginger and big onion into small chunks.
Place the shallots, onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger into a blender and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl.
In a separate bowl, add all the curry paste ingredients together. Add 50 ml of water and mix until a smooth paste is formed.
Combine the onion mixture and the curry paste mixture and mix until well incorporated and set aside for later use.
Wash the eggplant, tomatoes and okras ( lady's fingers). Remove the stalk of the egg plants and quarter and cut into 5 cm long. Cut the tomatoes into wedges.
Rinse the stalks of curry leaves then glide your fingers along the stalk to separate the leaves from the stalk. Set aside the leaves for later use and discard the stalks.
Place 1 Tbsp of tamarind pulp into a bowl and add 100 ml of water. Use your fingers to rub the tamarind until all the seeds come out clean. Strain the tamarind juice into a bowl and set aside for later use. Discard the seeds.
COOKING METHOD FOR FISH HEAD CURRY (30 MIN)
In a wok, heat up 8 Tbsp of oil over medium heat. Next add in all the blended curry paste to fry for about 10-15 minutes until the aromatic and the oil surfaces. Keep stirring constantly to prevent the paste from getting burnt. (If it gets too dry, lower the heat and add some tamarind juice to it).
Next add in 1.2 litre of water, curry leaves, salt, sugar and the rest of the tamarind juice. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add in the eggplant and cook for about 5 mins until soft. Then add in the okra, and tomatoes. ( cook egg plants first as they take a longer time to soften ).
Add in the fish head with the cheeks side up and continue to cook for about 10-15 mins.
Lastly add in the 200 ml of coconut milk to the curry and mix well. Cook for another 5 mins. Turn off the heat and let the fish head sit in the gravy for a while. (More water and salt can be added if you prefer the gravy to be more diluted and more salty)
Transfer the curry into a serving bowl, and serve with a plate of steaming hot rice.
[Key Tip!] Not all kinds of fish heads are suitable for cooking curry fish head. Some will disintegrate easily and others may be too tough and full of small bones.
[Key Tip!] Make sure that all the fish scales are removed as having unremoved scales on the fish head will really ruin the dish. Your fishmonger will help you scale the fish, but don't assume that it will be completely clean. Always check and if need be, remove any remnant scales yourself when you get home. Read our article: 6 Simple Steps to Scale and Clean Fish Like A Pro for how to scale the fish head properly.
When frying the curry paste, turn the heat to low to prevent it from getting burnt and keep stirring to prevent it from sticking to the wok. Cook until the oil separates from the spices. If it is too dry, a little water can be added to it.
Do not over-cook the fish head. After 10-15 mins, turn off the heat and let the fish head soak in the curry, so that the curry gravy will be more flavourful.
Only add in the coconut cream in the last 5 minutes and do not boil it vigorously, otherwise it will curdle.
[Key Tip!] Do not cut the lady's fingers, otherwise the pot of curry will turn rather slimy.
You can also add in other vegetables like long beans, carrots, red chillies and green chillies.
If you are not a fish head lover, you can substitute it with fish cutlets like mackerel, sea beam (Ang Ko Li) or salmon ( if it's your preference).