Nonya Fish Head Curry

Thursday, April 09, 2020

It goes without saying that we are in season where home-cooking has become a necessity. 

While we may order food in (and yes, please do order and give our restaurants some business), we still need to cook our own food for reasons like variety in taste, healthier food and so on. We should have more time to do so now that we are staying at home. In between my work on my notebook, I will check the pot of something which is braising away. 

However, cook with what you have and cook what you can. Don't be unduly stressed up by the thought of cooking something that may be beyond your current level of experience. That said, it is a season to upscale and learn new or more challenging dishes.

Most of us love curry fish head. Whether it is Nonya (herb-based) or Indian style (spice-based), it is a one pot meal which the whole family can enjoy. You can also make it more in the Assam direction, dropping coconut milk or yoghurt and add more "daun keping" or tamarind slices.  

Here is an outline of the steps involved in cooking great pot of curry fish head: 
  • The first step and the most obvious one is that your fish head needs to be fresh. During this season, there is a drop in demand for fish heads from restaurants. You can buy fresh heads cheaply. Have your fish seller sliced the head into halves. Snappers will do well for this dish.
  • The curry should be prepared in the same way as any good curry. The onions, blended or cut into small pieces, needs to be simmered in oil before the ingredients are added.
  • When the curry is done, add in the cut vegetables: brinjal, ladies fingers etc and cook them to the right consistency. 
Steamed the fish heads separately. 

Before dinner, combine and serve hot on the table. 

For 4-6 pax

1 whole fish head
10 pieces of garlic
1 small piece of toast belachan
20 pieces of small red onions or 3 large red onions, diced or blended
fresh turmeric, about an inch or 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
2 stalks of lemongrass (lightly bruised)
2 tsp of light curry powder
2 tsp of salt
1 piece of chicken stock
chilli paste or blended dry red chillies (to taste)
a bowl of oil
1 pack of coconut cream (200 ml)
1 assam keping
1 piece of brinjal, sliced into pieces
10 pieces of ladies fingers
2 pieces of large tomatoes, quartered
10 pieces of fried soy bean curd puff ("tau korn"), soak in water first and squeeze to remove oil
coriander leaves (for garnishing)

  1. Blend the herbs: garlic, onions, turmeric, chillies etc int a paste
  2. Steam the fish head on high for 15 minutes.
  3. In a wok or clay pot, hit up the oil and add the belachan and the paste. Simmer for 15 minutes. Along the way, add the chicken stock, curry powder, salt, chilli paste, assam keping and lemongrass stalks. 
  4. Add the soy bean puffs, brinjal, ladies fingers and tomatoes.  
  5. Add the coconut cream and stir. Simmer for another 5 minutes and with off fire. 
  6. When you are about to serve the dish, heat up the curry and pour it over the fish. You can use a claypot or a wide dish. Remember that it is best to serve this hot. Garnish with corianders leaves. 
Serve with rice. Use your hands if you prefer as our fingers are our best bone detectors. In anywise, please be careful as you eat. Curry Fishhead meals have given many ENT surgeons good and regular business.  

Try cooking this. It beats takeaways anytime. Experiment with different type of curries. You can also choose to use deboned fish meat. Ask your seller to debone for you. 



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  1. This recipe is so good! There was a head scratching moment when I saw that everything was too dry, but I added about 2 cups of water at the vegetable cooking part and it turned out perfect. Made it with fish fillets as my partner hates fish bones/head. I'd happily cook this once a week.

  2. Any recommendations for what kind of fish for the fish head?