How many of us have oohed and aahed over a delicious pot of fish head curry? With just enough spice to make your nose leak but not stop you from eating, you dig into the succulent fish head flesh – especially that bit behind the cheeks, savour the curry-flavoured eye balls, suck on the bones, soak up the gravy with rice, bread and whathaveyou, licking your fingers clean to get every last drop. And then start all over again with a second, or third, and maybe even fourth helping.
Something so good cannot be easy to make, right? With its complex flavours and delicate fish flesh, one has to be some sort of expert to make really good fish head curry and make it right, right?
Well, no, honestly, not really. And if you’ve got a slow cooker, life just got ten times easier. It’s perfect if you’re a beginner at making fish head curry, and if you’re an expert, well, you’ll be happy to note that slow cooker fish head curry is just as good as that out of a pot, and it doesn’t require you slaving continuously over a hot stove, worried about overcooking something. The technique is easy, ingredients familiar. All you really need to worry about is getting yourself a nice fresh meaty piece of fish head, and if you head to your fishmonger at your local market or supermarket even, they’ll hook you up with that.
Not all curries are created equal
If you’re a regular curry eater or maker, you’ll know that not all curries are created equal. While there may be certain similar ingredients, the flavour of a chicken curry is distinctly different from a beef curry, and a vegetarian curry different from a fish curry. And it’s not because of the flavour of protein (or lack thereof).
Curries are not one of those one-sauce-fits-all type of cooking method and there’s a very good reason why packets of curry powder come emblazoned with the words ‘beef/mutton curry powder’, ‘chicken curry powder’, and so on. That’s because a different mixture of spices are used for each type of curry. This is one reason why people often tend to prefer one curry over another – we’ll eat them all, of course, but sometimes, there’s just one we absolutely can’t get enough of.
We’re no curry powder experts – not yet, anyway – but there’s something about the combination of coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried chilies, turmeric and black peppercorns typically used in fish head curry powder that keeps us wanting more and more and more. But whichever curry tops your list there’s one thing we can all agree on – curry always tastes better the next day.
Slow = flavour
This is where a slow cooker can do its thing and show off as to why it’s better at making curries than your standard pot for one very good reason – the slow cooking time means the spices sit and cook for longer, the flavour intensifying with every hour that passes. Sure, on a high temperature setting you can knock off a really good and tasty slow cooker fish head curry in a couple of hours. But leave it to slow cook for four hours on low temperature and the flavours are even better than it was just two hours ago. And if you’re super patient – cook it and let it stay warm overnight for an intense curry breakfast the next day. Have it with some roti canai or just plain bread, and you might find yourself calling in late for work because it’s so good you just can’t stop.
And if there’s just one reason to get a slow cooker, this recipe for slow cooker fish head curry is definitely it. It’s not the only thing a slow cooker makes well though, because we’ve got a few delicious recipes we put together with our Philips all-in-one slow cooker (scroll down to see more!) that have us floored.
Let’s get slow cookin’.
- 941g red snapper, head and tail
- 10g (1 ½ tsp) salt
- 43g tamarind pulp, mixed with 1 cup water
- 32g fish curry powder
- 120ml (1/2 cup) + 480ml (2 cup) water
- 143g (2/3 cup) coconut milk
- 105g (1/2 cup) cooking oil
- 14g ginger, peeled
- 11g (3 cloves) garlic, peeled
- 55g (2 small) red onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 tsp cumin (jintan putih)
- 12g ginger, peeled and cut long thin strips
- 49g (2 small) red onions, peeled and sliced thin
- 8g (2 cloves) garlic, peeld and sliced thin
- 19g (1 stalk) lemongrass, roots removed, cut into half and bashed
- 4 stalks curry leaves
- 6g mixed fenugreek spices
- 163g (1 large) tomato, quartered
- 58g (1/2) large brown onion, peeled and quartered
- 23g (1) green chili, sliced in half until close to the top
- 17g (1) red chili, sliced in half until close to the top
- 34g spring onions, roots removed and cut into 5cm lengths
- 11g coriander, left on the stalk and cut roughly into 5cm lengths
- The most amount of work required when making slow cooker fish head curry is during preparation. Go through the list above and prepare all the ingredients. Peel what needs to be peeled, cut what needs to be cut, chop what needs to be chopped.
- In a mortar, add all the items on the ‘to pound’ ingredient list.
- Using a pestle, pound the items until coarse. The aim is to release the aroma of the ingredients, especially the cumin. Tip: for more consistent results (and if you have a couple of extra minutes to spare), pound the cumin first, and then pound the rest of the ingredients. You can also use a blender if you’re lazy, but you will still need to pound the cumin.
- Set your slow cooker to the sauté/sear high temperature function and add in cooking oil.
- Heat oil until bubbles start to firm on the base of the pot.
- While waiting, mix curry powder with 120ml cup water and stir until more or less combined.
- Once the oil is hot enough, add in the pounded ingredients plus all sautéing ingredients. Sauté stirring occasionally, until everything smells really fragrant, about 7 minutes.
- Next, add the curry powder and water mixture into your slow cooker. If there’s quite a bit of curry paste still stuck to your bowl, add a splash of water into the bowl and give it a good stir. Pour everything into the pot.
- Sauté stirring occasionally until all the spices are cooked and everything smells really fragrant. The curry paste will turn a darker shade of reddish-brown when it is ready. This will take another 6 to 7 minutes.
Slow cooker fish head curry
- Add tamarind pulp water poured through a sieve to catch any seeds. Squeeze the pulp to remove the yummy juices.
- Next add salt, coconut milk and 480ml water. Give everything a good stir.
- Finally, add all the fresh ingredients except for the coriander.
- Set low cooker on low temperature for 4 hours.
- It’s not slow cooker fish head curry without the fish head! Add in the fish head and tail, burying it into the curry.
- Set the slow cooker on high temperature for 30 minutes. If your slow-cooker timer doesn’t go that low, set a manual timer on your phone or elsewhere and cancel the slow cooker once it reaches 30 minutes.
- Lastly, add the coriander, reserving a small pinch of the leaves for garnishing.
- Give everything a good stir, being careful not to break the fish head apart.
- Serve slow cooker fish head curry in a large bowl and sprinkle the rest of the coriander leaves on top.
- Depending on the size of your fish head you may want to cut it in half to fit your slow cooker. Get your fishmonger to cut it for you if you’re not sure how to. You basically want a fish eye on each half, not two fish eyes on one half and fish lips on another half. That’s just wrong.
- Mixed fenugreek spices come pre-mixed on the spice aisle at your local supermarket. If you can’t find it, mix an equal combination of mustard seeds, fenugreek, fennel seeds (jintan manis), white cumin and petite yellow lentils (urad dal). By equal combination we mean 1 tsp each and not 1 piece each! If you’re making this from scratch, make a lot and store in an airtight container for future use.
- If your slow cooker doesn’t have a sauté/sear option, use a wok or heavy-bottomed pan on a stove top for all the sauté/sear steps then transfer everything to your slow cooker. As the heat in a slow cooker is much lower compared to a stove, it will take you less time for the ingredients to cook.
- If you don’t have as much time, slow cook on high temperature for 2 hours.
- If you’re going to prepare the curry while you’re asleep, working or out, prepare your dish till just before the fish goes in. Keep warm once the slow cooking has completed. Add the fish about an hour before you’re ready to eat. Keep your fish refrigerated in the meantime.
- If you’d like to bulk up your fish head curry, add eggplants and/or okra with the fresh ingredients. They go great with fish head curry!
- Not keen on fish head? You can use the exact same recipe with meaty cuts of fish as well.
Slow cooker fish head curry goes perfect with plain rice, soft bread, roti canai, capati, puri, string hoppers, idli, thosai and the list goes on. An extra tip, have your fish head curry with a generous dollop of natural or Greek yogurt on your plate. It adds an extra level of flavour to your slow cooker fish head curry that will make you want to lick your plate clean!
Share with us how your slow cooker fish head curry turned out by tagging your pictures with #butterkicap! Now it’s time to set that phone aside and let’s eat!
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