Fish head curry (Gulai kepala ikan)

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 6 people

  • 1.5 kg fish head, preferably snapper
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 50 curry leaves (see note)
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, outer leaves removed, white part only, bruised
  • 1 star anise
  • 30 gm (¼ cup) Malaysian fish curry powder (see note)
  • 2½ tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 cups of warm water
  • 500 ml (2 cups) light coconut milk
  • 5 small okra
  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into wedges
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into wedges
  •  
  • Spice paste
  • 5 dried long red chillies, soaked in boiling water until soft, drained
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 5 red shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm piece turmeric, thinly sliced
  • 2 cm piece galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 5 cm piece ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
01   Rinse fish head in cold water, season with 1 tsp of salt, stand for 20 minutes and wash off salt just before cooking.
02   For spice paste, process ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
03   Heat oil in a large wok or pan over medium-high heat and fry mustard seeds until they pop, add curry leaves and fenugreek seeds, stir for a few seconds, then add spice paste, lemongrass and star anise. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant and oil separates. Add curry powder and stir for another 2 minutes. Strain tamarind mixture into pan, discarding solids, add coconut milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.
04   Place fish head into sauce, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes or until fish is almost cooked. Add okra and eggplant, then simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until soft. Season to taste with white sugar and salt, add tomato and serve immediately with rice passed separately.
Note Use fresh not dried curry leaves. Dried leaves don't have the distinctive fragrance that is essential to the dish. Available from select green grocers and supermarkets. Fish curry powder is made with coriander, fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds, black peppercorns, turmeric powder and roasted dried chillies. Alagappa's and Cap Burong Nuri are the best. Available from Asian food stores.

Recipe:

TONY TAN

Photography:

CHRIS CHEN

Styling:

MICHELE FINATO

Drinking Suggestion:

RIPE, RICH, LATE-HARVESTED PINOT GRIS. , suggested by MAX ALLEN

FEATURED IN

Apr 2007

Apr 2007

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