Hello Everyone! It’s been a while since my last post here on the blog; I’ve been super busy with work since I moved to a new department in the beginning of October, and doing some freelance work on top of that. I’ve also been focusing on creating sponsored content for Instagram and participating in a TikTok Challenge this past month. Now that things have slowed down just a little bit, I finally found the time to sit down and write this post/recipe (just hours before this is going live), to share with everyone!
We still have three more countries to venture through on our Flavours of Southeast Asia before the year ends, so the coming weeks will just be quick stopovers – and first, we’re taking a stroll through the many hawker centers in Singapore for their famous Fish Head Curry!
The dish is actually of South Indian origins, but has been popularised in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore where it was introduced by the Indian migrants when they moved to the region. Thus, this dish is more commonly found at many Indian eateries across Malaysia and Singapore, served typically as a main to steamed rice.
Of course, there’s no problem in using the whole fish, which is what I did, as opposed to just using the head. The main reason why the fish head is much sought after when making a curry is because the meat found at the jaws, below the gills, and at the back of the neck is the sweetest and most delicate. It is also where it absorbs the flavours of the curry best. The important thing is to use fresh fish, whether sea bream, sea bass, snapper, tilapia, or any other white-fleshed fish, and to not overcook it.
I’ve had this dish many times before during my travels to Singapore and have made it a couple of times before when I was still living in Brunei. This is the first time I am making it again at home after a couple of years. The curry is thick, creamy, aromatic, tangy, and spicy; best served with vegetables such as okra and eggplant to soak up all the gravy goodness.
Note that there are some ingredients that I could not source locally for this dish, eg. brown mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fresh galangal, and fish curry paste. The seeds I just left out, and used crushed galangal from a jar, and red curry paste instead.
PREP TIME 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 4
- 1.5 kg red snapper fish, sliced
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 15 pcs dried curry leaves
- 3 pcs dried long red chillies
- 3 tbsp red curry powder (or fish curry powder)
- 2 tbsp tamarind paste
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 200 ml coconut milk (or more if you want it creamier)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 cups water (or fish stock)
- 1 large tomato, cut into wedges
- 1 bunch (5 pcs) okra, halved
- 2 eggplants, halves lengthwise and then cut into 3 horizontally
- Shredded scallion, to garnish
For the curry paste
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 3 pcs red bird’s eye chillies (more if you want it spicier, or vice versa)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (white part only), chopped
- 1 medium-sized red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1-inch sized ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1-inch sized turmeric, peeled and chopped
- 1 & 1/2 tsp crushed galangal paste
- 1/4 cup water
- Curry Paste: Pound all the ingredients together for the curry paste, except the water, using a mortar and pestle, until a smooth paste is formed. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes of elbow grease. Mix the water with the paste and then set aside until ready to use. Alternatively, you can place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz them into a smooth paste.
- Fish Head Curry: Heat 2 tablespoons of cook oil in a heavy-based pan over high heat. Fry the eggplant slices until browned and tender. Once done, set aside.
- Reduce the heat down to medium, and in the same pan toast the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and dried chillies. Cook until fragrant and be careful to not burn them.
- Add the curry paste and curry powder, cooking and stirring continuously for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the paste darkens in colour and the oils start to separate.
- Add the tamarind paste, coconut sugar, coconut milk, and season with salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a simmer before adding the water and tomato wedges. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the fish head (and fish slices) to the curry mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 – 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. In the last minute or so, add the okra to the curry and cook until tender.
- Transfer the fish head curry to a serving dish, top with the fried eggplant, and garnish with some shredded scallions. Serve immediately with steamed rice and enjoy!
– Ally xx