Fish Head Curry

Fish Head Curry

Though most Westerners shy away from dishes in which the main
ingredient eyes are included, Singaporeans swear it’s the fish’s
head that contains the sweetest meat in this soupy curry.

As with many Peranakan dishes, the roots of fish head curry can be traced back to the early days of nautical migration and trade between East Asia, South Asia and the West. While today’s dish might seem, at first glance, more heavily influenced by its South rather than East Asian roots, the Chinese fondness for fish head is well known, making the Peranakan version – like Singapore itself – a shining example of cultural cooperation.

You’ll need
2 tbs oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
3 sprigs curry leaves
3 cloves of garlic, finely
2 onions, peeled and thinly
6–8 small pickled red chillies,
3 tbs madras curry powder
2 tbs tamarind paste
Salt to taste
1 large (about 1kg/2lb) red
snapper head
8 large okra, cut lengthwise
225g (½lb) fried tofu, cubed
2 big tomatoes cut into
1 cup (250mL) coconut milk
1 tbs chopped fresh coriander
(cilantro) leaves
2 cups (500mL) water

Cooking Method
1 Heat the oil in a large soup pan over a medium heat, add the fenugreek seeds and saute for 1 minute.
2 Add the curry leaves and garlic and saute for another minute.
3 Add the onions and chillies and fry for about 10 minutes, until the onions are light brown.
4 Add the curry powder and fry for another 5 minutes, until fragrant.
5 Add a splash of water and the tamarind paste and salt and bring to a boil.
6 Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
7 Add the fish head, okra, tofu, tomatoes, remaining water and coconut milk and simmer until the fish is cooked, about 10 minutes.
8 Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

tasting notes
Beautifully combining elements from across the continent, Peranakan fish head curry has a sour-spice flavour that’s reminiscent of tom yum (Thai seafood soup) and is more liquid than traditional Indian curry. Eschew the Indian hand-to-mouth eating method; you’ll want a spoon. The flavour comes from tamarind paste while the spice comes from chillies, the former acting as a brake on the latter, giving this dish a slow burn. Though the fish head is the dish’s star, the fried tofu soaks up most of the flavour and okra adds crunch. For extra authenticity – or to impress your friends – try eating an eyeball. They are crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside!

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