Fish Head Curry is unique to Singapore. It mixes the spices of a typical South Indian curry with a fish head, a delicacy among the Chinese. Every hawker or restaurant has its own version of the dish, with slight variations to the curry: some mix in tamarind paste for sourness, others add more coconut milk for a creamier texture. The only similarity is the head of a fleshy Red Snapper swimming in a pool of spicy gravy, along with a mix of vegetables such as okra and eggplant.
On our epic food quest, we discovered the story behind Fish Head Curry. It was created in the kitchen of a small Indian restaurant in the 1940s. Fish head is not considered an Indian ingredient, but to please his Chinese customers, restaurant owner M.J. Gomez blended Indian curry with the Chinese favourite fish head, truly making this a Singaporean creation.
- 1 whole fish head, cut into 2
- 10g ginger, thinly shredded
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 onions, thinly sliced
- 5 tablespoons curry paste (recipe follows)
- 3 tomatoes, quartered
- 6 red chillies, slit into half lengthwise
- 6 green chillies, slit into half lengthwise
- 2 -3 sprigs curry leaves
- 1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, diluted with
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- CURRY POWDER (SEEDS MIXTURE)
- 250g coriander powder
- 60g cumin powder
- 150g chilli powder
- 30g turmeric powder
- 20g black pepper
- 10g ground fenugreek
- 5 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Wash the fish head and pat dry. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a wok or saucepan, add curry seeds mixture and ginger and stir fry over high heat for two to three minutes till the seeds pop.
- Cool slightly then pulse in a food processor to create the paste.
- In the same wok or saucepan with the remaining oil, add garlic and stir fry till lightly browned.
- Add the curry paste and stir fry till fragrant and cooked.
- Add the onions and stir fry briefly for about one minute.
- Put in half of the coconut milk, bring to a boil, remember to keep stirring to avoid curdling.
- Add the fish, cook for 10 minutes before adding the remaining coconut milk and the tamarind juice.
- Add the tomatoes, red chilli, green chilli, curry leaves, salt and sugar.
- Simmer gently for about five to eight minutes or until the sauce is thickened to desired consistency and the fish is cooked through.
- You may add more liquid if there is not enough gravy.
- Serve with steaming hot rice.
Photo credit: Chensiyuan, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4830443