This comforting dish of braised fish head is a great alternative for those who do not take spicy food.
Braised fish head served up slathered in piping hot savoury gravy is one of the top items on my list of comfort foods. The fishmonger I go to recommends black garoupa as its meat can withstand the double-cooking process of deep-frying – for a crispy exterior – and quick braise.
Fish head aficionados will appreciate the fine meatiness of garoupa, as well as the luscious gumminess of its gelatinous parts. For those who do not eat spicy food like fish head curry, braised fish head is certainly a palatable option.
Cook rice to serve with the braised fish head, and it is possible to host a dinner party for six to eight without tiring yourself out in the kitchen. The dish is packed with vegetables for a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Instead of cooking the fish head whole, I prefer to have it cut up into large pieces. This makes it easy to deep-fry and shortens the cooking time.
Carrot, napa cabbage, onion and leek add natural sweetness to the dish. I particularly like the texture of dried beancurd sticks soaked in gravy.
Tomatoes add a touch of tanginess to prevent the dish from being over-cloying.
BRAISED FISH HEAD RECIPE
1 whole garoupa fish head (2kg), cut into large pieces, about 8cm in length
2 tsp salt
1.2 litres cooking oil (reserve 3 tbs of used cooking oil to cook the gravy later)
25g ginger, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 carrot (140g), halved lengthwise and sliced
200g napa cabbage, cut into 5cm by 3cm pieces
4 tbsp oyster sauce
120g dried beancurd sticks, soaked and broken into 8cm lengths
1.2 litres of water
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tomatoes (280g), sectioned
1 onion (150g), sectioned
3 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp water
Dash of white pepper
1 stalk of leek (60g), diagonally sliced
10g spring onion, sliced into 5cm lengths
5g fresh coriander leaves
1. Season the fish head with salt and dredge each piece in cornflour.
2. Heat oil in wok over medium heat. Fry the fish until golden brown, then drain.
3. Heat 3 tablespoons of the used oil in sauce pot over medium heat.
4. Fry the sliced ginger until fragrant. Add the chopped garlic and fry until fragrant.
5. Add the carrot and fry for 2 minutes. Add the napa cabbage and oyster sauce, fry for a minute and add the beancurd sticks.
6. Add the 1.2 litres of water, with the light soy sauce and Shaoxing wine. Then add the tomatoes and onion. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Mix the cornflour and water and add to the sauce, with a dash of pepper.
7. Place the fried fish pieces in a claypot. Pour sauce over the fish. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Add the leek and let simmer for 1 minute.
8. Garnish with spring onion and coriander. Serve hot.
A version of this article first appeared on www.tnp.sg.