While most people who eat fish prefer fillets and curry cuts, others around the world recognise the fact that fish heads are also delicious, if a little off-putting because of their look. If you are up for a few experiments, then here are some authentic, delicious and trie-and-tested fish head dishes from around the world that you can try out.
Those who love eating fish know this really well. While the fleshiest parts of the fish, basically the fillets and curry cuts, are always utilised to make some of the most delicious dishes not only in India but around the world, other parts like fish heads, tails, fins and offals are usually thrown out. In most parts of the world, even across many Indian coastal regions, fish eggs, despite being offal in a way, are used up to make a variety of dishes. Many people choose to make crispy chips with the tails and fins.
But what happens to fish heads? For many, the fact that glazy fish eyes stare out even after the rest of the fish is used up, pushes them away from consuming fish heads. No matter what the type or size of the fish, the fish heads always have very less meat and plenty of hard bones, making it very difficult to cook and eat them too. And yet, there are many across India and the world who are able to overcome these obvious difficulties of cooking with fish heads and cooking them up in innovative ways to create incredibly delicious fish head dishes.
These are the people and cuisines who understand that even if fish heads do look a bit weird and off-putting, they are loaded with fish oils, gelatin and collagen which can up the amount of umami-ness in any dish. Fish heads are also very easily affordable and can therefore be consumed by all those who indulge in fish in any case as a source of complete protein. What’s more, because of its texture and boniness, fish heads can be used in everything from curries to soups and broths.
So, don’t throw out those fish heads. Instead, try these incredibly delicious fish head dishes from India and the world.
Video Credit: Youtube/Bong Eats
Popular in both Bengal and Assam, Muri Ghonto is known for its unique flavours and deep cultural significance as a special fish-and-rice dish made in one pot. Muri means fish head and ghonto means a medley of various ingredients, so Muri Ghonto is basically a dish that combines fish heads with rice, mild spices, potatoes, cauliflower, peas and sometimes even lentils. The spices used are cumin, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves. Relished as it is, without too many additions, this fish head dish is a classic Eastern Indian comfort meal.
Hunanese Steamed Fish Head
Originating in the Hunan province of China, this simple yet boldly flavoured fish head dish is usually made with freshwater fish like carp. The fish heads are marinated with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and then steamed in a bamboo steamer until they turn tender and succulent. The fish heads are then served in a bold sauce of chillies, fermented soybeans and spices, making the ultimate plate one packed with textures of soft fish and spicy, bold flavours.
You may already know about the love for all things fish that the Japanese have, but have you ever heard of Arani. Ara refers to the meaty bony parts of the fish in Japanese, so Arani is made with not only the fish heads but also tails and fins. Heads of fish like snapper, sea bream, yellowtail, flounder and sake salmon are used for this one. The heads are cut into bite-sized pieces and then cooked with sugar, shoyu, mirin, ginger and root vegetables. The dish is very strongly flavours and allowed to rest for a few hours, which further intensifies its flavours.
Meen Thala Curry
Another region of India where fish heads are relished in the form of special dishes is Kerala. Meen thala curry or simply fish head curry, is a simple and aromatic dish from Kerala cuisine. Prepared with the heads of kingfish or pomfret, this dish utilises the flavours of coconut milk, tamarind, turmeric, mustard seeds and curry leaves. A broth made of these ingredients, Meen Thala Curry is slightly sweet-and-sour, sublime and usually enjoyed with rice or appam.
Video Credit: YouTube/Recipes are easy
Tom Hua Pa
This Laotian fish head soup is not only cooked across homes in the small Southeast Asian nation, but also served by street food vendors as a nourishing meal. Made with local fish like carp, redfin, yellowtail and trout, this soup not only utilises the fish heads but also the rejected bits of the frame after filleting. Chopped into small pieces, the fish heads are simmered in a broth of onion, spring onion, coriander, salt, pepper, tamarind paste and fish sauce.Many also add veggies like mushrooms and tomatoes to it.
Also known as Beehoon, this Malaysian fish head and noodle soup is milky, creamy and simply too delicious to miss. The fish heads are first fried or deep-fried, which releases the fish oils and collagen a bit. Then the fish heads are cooked in a fish broth loaded with ginger, white peppercorns, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spring onions, fish sauce and shao xing wine. Noodles are finally added to the soup to cook, and it turns creamier and smoother thanks to the starch.