Malaysian Fish Head Curry Recipe

Description :

South Indian and Malaysian cuisines come together in this spicy vermillion curry that's simmered with fish heads, eggplant, and okra.

Ingredient :

For the Curry Powder:

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder

For the Curry:

  • 3 medium cloves garlic (1/2 ounce; 15g)

  • One 1-inch knob peeled ginger (1/2 ounce; 15g)

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) neutral oil, such as vegetable oil, divided

  • 3 small Japanese eggplants (10 1/2 ounces; 300g), quartered lengthwise and cut into 3-inch lengths

  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

  • 1 small yellow onion (4 ounces; 113g), thinly sliced

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 large garden tomatoes (14 ounces; 400g), cored and diced

  • 25 curry leaves, woody stems removed

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) tamarind paste

  • 1 pound (454g) fish heads (from about 2 large fish, preferable a large oily fish like mackerel or salmon), split in half lengthways and gills removed (see notes)

  • 10 large okra pods (5 ounces; 140g), stem ends trimmed and pods sliced in half on a bias crosswise

  • 3 small green chiles, such as serranos or green bird's eye, stemmed, sliced in half lengthwise, and seeded

  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar, turbinado sugar, or granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) full-fat coconut milk

  • Cooked white rice or warm flatbreads, for serving

Direction :

  1. For the Curry Powder: In a dry skillet, toast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and white peppercorns over medium heat until they darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer the toasted spices to a mortar or spice grinder. Allow spices to cool for 1 minute, then grind spices until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the chile powder and turmeric. Set aside.
  2. For the Curry: Using the same mortar (no need to wipe it out), pound the garlic and ginger into a smooth paste.
  3. In a large sauté pan or medium Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high until shimmering. Add the eggplant in a single layer and cook until first side is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the eggplant and cook until second side is lightly browned, about 2 minutes (we’re not looking to fully cook the eggplant; we just want to get some color on them). Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to the same sauté pan or Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds  and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spices are fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to sputter, 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the sliced onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste along with the diced tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down into a sauce, about 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, slowly add 1/2 cup (120ml) water to the curry powder while whisking to form a paste. Stir the curry paste into the broken-down tomatoes and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the curry leaves to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tamarind paste and 2 cups (475ml) water, then stir well, making sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet.
  8. Add the fish head halves, reserved eggplant, sliced okra, and sliced green chiles, making sure the liquid in the skillet comes at least 2/3 of the way up the sides of the fish heads; add more water if necessary. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover with a lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the fish heads and okra are fully cooked, about 20 minutes.
  9. Stir in the sugar and coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Serve warm with rice or flatbread.

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