FIsh Head In Creamy Coconut Gravy With Pineapple
By Jennifer Tan Kim Choo
Fish head curry takes on a tropical twist with the addition of pineapple, lending it citrusy flavours. It‘s cooked to perfection in a fragrant spice-infused coconut milk gravy.
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 persons
A: Spice Paste
6cm galangal, peeled and thickly sliced
5cm (thumb-size) fresh turmeric,
peeled and roughly chopped
20 dried chillies: blanch in hot water to soften
1 teaspoon (2cm) shrimp paste
3 lemongrass, white portion: cut into 2cm pieces
8 cloves garlic, peeled
10 shallots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 cup (250ml) oil
2 tablespoons oil, extra
B: To Cook With Fish
1 red snapper head, about 1 kg, cut into large pieces
3 lemongrass, white portion, bruised
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (1cm x 3cm x 2cm)
2 cups (500ml) fresh coconut milk
1 cup (250ml) water
Salt and sugar to taste
1. Place all A ingredients (aromatics except oil) into a blender and pulse. Gradually add the oil, pouring in a steady stream and pulse until fine.
2. Heat up the wok or large saucepan over medium heat. Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add in the spice paste and sauté until the oil separates from the paste or smells fragrant.
3. Add bruised lemongrass, followed by coconut milk and water. Reduce stove heat to low. Using a spatula, stir the gravy continually to prevent the coconut milk from splitting (a process where the coconut oil separates from the milk solids, giving it a curdled appearance).
4. Once the gravy starts to boil, add in fish. Start with the meaty and tail pieces followed by the bony fish head parts. Season with salt and sugar to taste.
5. After 5 minutes, add the pineapple. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
6. Allow the fish to stand in the wok or saucepan for 5 minutes. To test if the fish is fully cooked, insert a toothpick into a meaty piece to check if it has turned opaque white, showing it is cooked.
7. Serve piping hot with steamed rice.
TIP: The bony parts of the fish head tend to cook faster, so it should be added last.
TECHNIQUE: Fish should not be overcooked or it will dry out and become tough. Turning off the heat allows the fish to continue cooking in the residual heat of the wok until it is perfectly done.
Jennifer Tan is the 2nd generation owner of Donald & Lily, a Nyonya restaurant in Malacca, Malaysia. It was named among the Top 50 in the recent World Street Master Hawkers Award.
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