A signature Singaporean dish, fish head curry melds cuisines to bring a fragrant, rich dish. Blending Indian and Chinese cuisines with Southeast Asian ingredients, the ingredient list is long, but the taste sensation makes it all worthwhile. Serve in the middle of the table and pick away at the flesh covered in a rich, spicy sauce.


Recipe by: Kai Ika
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Feeds: 4-6 people
Parts of fish: Heads
For the stock:
• 2 med-large snapper heads, de-scaled
• 3cm ginger, peeled and chopped
• 1 handful of coriander leaves, chopped
• Water
For the spice mix:
• 1-2 tsp chilli powder
• 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
• 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
• Pinch ground pepper
• 2 cloves
• 1 whole dried chilli (or chilli flakes)
• Pinch fennel seeds
• 1 cardamom pod
• Pinch cinnamon
• ½ tsp turmeric
• Pinch of salt
For the base:
• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
• 1 tsp mustard seeds
• 4 stems fresh curry leaves
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 tbsp chopped garlic
For the finish:
• 2 tbsp tamarind puree
• 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
• 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 5cm lengths and bruised
• 3cm ginger, peeled and cut into thin rounds
• 5 okra (or green beans/zucchini)
• 1 small eggplant, chopped into 2½cm chunks, skin on
• 1 red chilli, sliced
• 200ml coconut cream
• Fish sauce to taste (2-5 tbsp)
• Brown sugar to taste (1-2 tsp)
1) Smear ginger and coriander leaves over fish heads, then place in a large pot. Add 2cm of water to the bottom of the pot, cover it with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until heads are cooked through (not too long that they fall apart). Reserve the fish head water (stock) and set heads aside.
2) Mix spice mix ingredients and blend in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
3) Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add fenugreek, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, and fry gently for 1 minute. Add onion and garlic and cook gently for 8 minutes (don’t brown). Add your spice mix and fry gently for 5 minutes. Don’t allow it to burn – you can add a little water to prevent the mix from sticking.
4) Add 2½ cups of the fish head stock – if you don’t have enough just top up with water. Add tamarind, lemongrass, sliced ginger, and tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add eggplant, okra, chillies, and coconut cream, and cook for 8 minutes.
5) Season with fish sauce (for saltiness) and brown sugar (for sweetness). Keep adding until you have a nice balance of spice heat, salt, and sweetness. Finally, add the heads to the curry, but don’t stir, just spoon the curry sauce over the top of the heads so they don’t fall apart. Simmer gently for 2 minutes to warm.
6) Put the curry in a serving dish and sit in the middle of the table. Serve with steamed rice and chopped fresh coriander.