Kitchen Tips

4 Simple Steps to Make Fish Head Curry

The fish head curry is a Peranakan dish which uses key ingredients like coconut milk, candlenuts, galangal, laksa leaves, tamarind pulp/juice, lemongrass and cincaluk – a shrimp based salty and sour sauce accompanied by lime juice and onions.

Fish head is believed to have been used for cooking during the colonial times, when the locals could not afford to buy whole fish. As the British did not consume the head of the fish the locals started to use the part in their curries.


simple steps to make fish head curry

Image Courtesy: ccdoh1 used under the Creative Commons Licence

Another belief is that the fish head curry is known to have originated in India and has inspired the Peranakan version of fish head curry.  The Chinese considered this dish to be a delicacy and acquired a taste for it.

Even today, the Indian restaurants in Malaysia use the fish head in curries to please their Chinese customers.

The dish is popular in both Malaysian Chinese restaurants and Malaysian Indian restaurants. The coconut milk and tamarind give the dish an Indian touch while the fish head, fish sauce, lemongrass and candle-nuts give it the Peranakan twist.

The Chinese Malaysian restaurants serve the dish in clay pots and the Malaysian Indian restaurants serve it on the banana leaf.

how to make fish head curry

Image Courtesy: Douglas LeMoine used under the Creative Commons Licence

Here is the recipe for the delicious fish head curry


Fish head

Chopped tomatoes

Coconut milk

Tamarind pulp


Laksa leaves or curry leaves

Vegetables of your choice – okra or eggplant


Fish sauce

Stalks of lemongrass

1 tbsp. sugar

Salt to taste

For the spice paste blend together


Garlic cloves




Toasted belacan

Red chillies; soaked until soft



4 simple steps to make the fish head curry

1. Rub the fish head with a little salt and keep it aside.

2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the blended ingredients along with the laksa or curry leaves. After 3 – 4 minutes add the tamarind water and bring it to a boil.

3. Once the ingredients start to boil add the tomatoes, coconut milk, lemon grass and the vegetables and fish sauce.  Let all the ingredients cook and come to a boil.

4. After the vegetables become soft add the fish head which has been rubbed with salt. Now add the salt and sugar to the curry and cook the fish on low heat.

Your favourite fish head curry is ready! Serve the curry with rice or bread of your choice (rotis).

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