Fish Head Curry

Photo by sherrenl/flickr

Serves 6.


1 or 2 large fish heads 1.5-2.5 kg/3-5 lb
(snapper, grouper, kingfish)
250 g/8 oz tender okra
2 slender eggplants (aubergines)
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
6 green chillies, halved lengthways
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, or 20 dried leaves
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 firm, ripe tomatoes, quartered
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup coconut milk
salt to taste


Clean and scale fish head. Cut okra and eggplants into 5 cm (2 in) lengths. Soak tamarind in 2 cups hot water for 10 minutes, squeeze to dissolve pulp, strain. In a dry pan roast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds separately until fragrant and slightly darkened in colour. Grind in spice grinder or pound using a mortar and pestle to a fine powder.

Heat oil and fry eggplant and okra about 3 minutes, remove from oil. Add fenugreek and mustard seeds, fry until mustard seeds pop. Add chillies, curry leaves, onion, garlic and ginger and lower heat. Fry until soft and golden. Add ground spices and fry, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in tamarind liquid, tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, add coconut milk and salt. Add fish head and vegetables and simmer uncovered until cooked. Serve with steamed white rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)