fish head curry(gulai kepala ikan)

Discussion in 'Nose to Tail' started by moikel, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hope to get this done over w/e.

    Its classic Malaysia nonya dish, & considered one of those bench mark dishes for restaurants & home kitchens.If the fish head curry is good then the kitchen has real cred. " Marry her son the girl can cook"[​IMG]

    Cooking/travel shows like Rick Steins East Asian Odyessy & Anthony Bourdain both showcase this dish. Big parties will always order it if its on the menu to share.

    At the fish market they keep the heads of certain fish seperate because its a big w/e seller for family gatherings in our Asian community.

    I want blue eye cod,bass groper or big eye cod. All big deep water white flesh fish.

    I figure you cant get much more nose to tail than a fish head[​IMG]

    I intend to make this 100% authentic [​IMG]no shortcuts so I have to run around & get fresh turmeric,galangal & tamarind.
  2. Sounds interesting! [​IMG]

    Happy smoken.

  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    That sounds great. I would always flip out my students on Soups, Stocks and Sauces day. I would have them make 5 gallon of Fish Stock with Bones and Heads, mostly Snapper and Grouper. Once they strained out the stock I would walk over with some SPOG and start picking and eating the cheeks and collars. Many thought it gross but the more adventurous would join in while the rest went hungry until turn out and the soups got served. They were great out of the pot so I imagine in a Curry Sauce they would be incredible...JJ
  4. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I will get photos up when I get fish heads. They half them up the middle between the eyes with the band saw. I think it's really about the sauce & picking over the head with your chopsticks. I cook a fair bit of curry but have never done this mostly because I get a bit of consumer resistance . The curry can be adapted to any seafood .
  5. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Some of the ingredients I grabbed on the way home .Recipe has okra but its out of season .Thats Thai apple eggplant,fresh turmeric, lemongrass,tamarind,galangal. The rest I  have in stock.

  6. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    Looking forward to following this thread as I love fish head curry, when I can find it. I first had it on a trip to Singapore around 25 years ago at the home of a business associate for a celebration of some sort. The flesh of the fish was excellent but the curry was really the star of the meal. On subsequent visits I've had some excellent versions at restaurants in Singapore, most notably Muthu's, which apparently is ground zero in the city for the dish. I've also had it a couple times at some shack like place in KL with a much different, but equally good, curry.

    It's been quite a while but I have made a pretty respectable version at home using large filets instead of the head. I took the conservative route knowing that my wife and some of the guests would probably faint if they saw their entree glaring at them.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2013
  7. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Its got to be the right fish & right size for this style of food. I mostly use ling cod for curry or mackeral .At fishing camp I had the luxury of threadfin salmon,barramundi or golden snapper.
  8. webowabo

    webowabo Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Damn Mick.. its the different things on here that make me hungry more thatn the ribs and same ol PP... its makes me think gramps, ...

    but... firecracker fishheads... get out of here :):) love me some curry... and some fish heads... and the tamarind.. i like the bitter sweet ... Ive made some soups with itbefore and its a background kick that makes ya go ..hmmm... :) 
  9. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I  am mostly cooking for 2 people so PP etc a bit over catering.

    I go on a bit about authentic regional food whatever the region. I have posted Malaysian,Sri Lankan,Mauritian,Fijian Indian & Jamaician curries.Every one similiar but different. I like the fact that they are their own thing with their own style & history. Probablly why I like that Cajun cookery that Foamheart does so well.

    Tamarind is one of those ingredients that if its in the recipe you cant substitute & expect to hit it out of the park.

    I just have to get the right super fresh heads. Part of the waste not want not school of cookery.
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Moikel's posts are never common place. We have fish head soup around here occassionally but usually from a large deep water red snapper.

    Your choice this time does remind me of an old Barnes & Barnes song popular in the 70/80's by the Doctor Demento radio show. LOL.... Eat 'em up yum!
  11. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Back when I had my Charter fishing boat we had a gentleman in town that would wait at the fillet tables with a 5 gallon bucket. He'd fill it up with various fish carcasses for soup. He made an awesome salmon soup that was very much like curry, super good!
  12. snorkelinggirl

    snorkelinggirl Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hi Mick,

    I'm looking forward to seeing how this dish comes together!

    Can you provide some detail about how to clean the heads?  For example, do you need to scale them, remove anything from inside the heads (brains?  do fish even have those?) , etc.  I'd love to learn how to make fish head soup or curry, but some of these prep details aren't obvious to me.  Thanks!!!

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of your post!  [​IMG]

  13. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I will be winging it & channeling my inner Malaysian ,situation normal! They just leave as is they split them through the middle ,brain,tongue in.No gills . Butchers daughter gave me one of those looks,so it's heads & fish steak curry.
    It's all about the sauce/ broth being flavoured with the fish head ,you pick at cheeks,collars etc . I will set the whole deal out,big list of bits. Big fish market tomorrow, there is some fish roe about too,blue wahoo.Asians like it fried,ginger,garlic ,shallot,chilli,lime,got a quick lesson in Chinatown yesterday.
  14. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    OK we have heads.Had to settle for snapper & mulloway.Both quality fish went  half ,half. They cut them a particular way at the big market for Asian buyer.They leave the wings on,that bit behind the gills with a fin & a fair size collar.

    I got them home cut out the gills gave them a good rinse,washed out any blood clots.I removed the tongue out of the top fish to red,got rid of  anything else that looked digestion related.

    I figure I will have to scale as well.

    Recipe says give them a good salt leave for 20 minutes rinse then start.

    I make fish stock from time to time that then goes in soups,or whatever.This is a bit trickier. I need to keep heads intact for presentation even though I am on notice that its a meal for one[​IMG]

    Ingredient list is long not that complex as a bit of cookery(famous last words) I need to get it done before rugby game between us & New Zealand .Airport pretty busy with NZ fans arriving.
  15. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Scaling around head & wing easy enough.Brain left in,gills blood clots any red bits or digestive related out. 

    Normally I make stock from heads & spines ,strain it throw out solids or give them to canine clean up crew.Its normally a bit mushy anyway.This recipe has the heads simmered for only 8 to 10 minutes until just cooked.

    Recipe is from Tony Tan who thinks it originated from a southern Indian chef in Singapore in the 1950s then evolved over the years. Recipe has curry leaf ,very South Indian /Sri Lankan ingredient but its become an iconic Malaysian dish. True fusion food,not forced or contrived just naturally evolved from the mixture of different ethnic groups  over time.[​IMG]Real melting pot of cultures deal.[​IMG]

    It will be clearer when I set out ingredients. I better do it justice.[​IMG]
  16. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    1.5 KG fish head ,white fleshed fish.1/4 cup veg oil,1/4 tsp black mustard seeds,50 curry leaves fresh! 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds.1stalk lemon grass white part only bruised.1x star anise ,1/4 cup Malaysian fish curry powder I use Baba's but Alagappa's & Cap Burong Nuri are highly regarded as well.(If you cant find them PM  me I will give you a recipe.) 2 &1/2 tabsp tamarind pulp soaked in 2 cups of  warm water 2 cups light coconut milk ,5 small okra 2 Japanese eggplants cut in wedges.I have Thai apple eggplant no okra out of  season..I  good tomato cut in wedges.

    Spice paste 5x dried long red chilli ,no seeds soaked in boiling water chopped 2x fresh long red chilli chopped. 5x red shallots thinly sliced 3x cloves of garlic 2cm bit of fresh turmeric thinly sliced 2cm bit of galangal coarsely chopped 5 cm bit of ginger chopped 1x stalk of lemon grass thinly sliced.Process in food processor 

    Dried curry leaves arent a good substitute. Asian or Indian stores have them fresh or even frozen I have a plant. If you cant get galangal bump the ginger.You can often get turmeric frozen as well or add 1/2 teaspoon dried,maybe?Tamarind is sold in blocks here,its about the water so soak squeeze discard solids.

    I have 2+kg fish head so it looks like I will have lunch tomorrow.

    This recipe is very much the sum of its parts, theres some  Southern Indian,but the star anise,lemon grass,galangal are very Asian bits. 
  17. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Spice paste,tamarind water,curry leaves.

    Rough chop before the processor .

  18. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    My preferred brand of Malaysian fish curry powder,Baba's .

    Thats a close relative of what I am doing on the packet.
  19. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Heat oil in pan add black mustard seeds  cook until they pop,add fenugreek,curry leaves fry a few minutes add spice paste,lemon grass stalk, cook 2 min add curry powder stir & keep stirring .Then add strained tamarind water,then coconut milk .Cook for a few minutes,then add fish heads.

  20. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Simmer gently about 8 to 10 minutes.You will see it change colour around the cheeks.You want it underdone HERE then add okra & eggplant simmer 3 to 5 mins or until soft. Season to taste with salt & white sugar add chopped tomato. DONE. Sprinkle chopped cilantro.

    Got photo problem system says wait try again later.

    This was a really good curry & I have had a few.

    I took all the fish out ,gave a bit a heat to cook eggplant then poured it over fish.
    crazymoon likes this.

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