Fish Head Curry

On Sunday, August 24th, 2014

  • Cuisine: Malaysian
  • Serves: 6
  • Type: Curry-Fish



  • 1.5 kg fish head, preferably snapper
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 50 curry leaves (see note)
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, outer leaves removed, white part only, bruised
  • 1 star anise
  • 30 gm (¼ cup) Malaysian fish curry powder (see note)
  • 2½ tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 cups of warm water
  • 500 ml (2 cups) light coconut milk
  • 5 small okra
  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into wedges
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into wedges

Spice paste

  • 5 dried long red chillies, soaked in boiling water until soft, drained
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 5 red shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm piece turmeric, thinly sliced
  • 2 cm piece galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cm piece ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced

Preparation method

Serves 6

Rinse fish head in cold water, season with 1 tsp of salt, stand for 20 minutes and wash off salt just before cooking.

For spice paste, process ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Heat oil in a large wok or pan over medium-high heat and fry mustard seeds until they pop, add curry leaves and fenugreek seeds, stir for a few seconds, then add spice paste, lemongrass and star anise. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant and oil separates. Add curry powder and stir for another 2 minutes. Strain tamarind mixture into pan, discarding solids, add coconut milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.

Place fish head into sauce, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes or until fish is almost cooked. Add okra and eggplant, then simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until soft. Season to taste with white sugar and salt, add tomato and serve immediately with rice passed separately.

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