Curry Fish Head
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My Sister’s Famous Curry Fish Head Recipe


600g Garoupa Fish Head, chopped into pieces
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp + 1/2 cup water
3-4 tablespoons oil
2 cups water
Bunch of polyganum leaves (laksa leaves)
4-6 okras, cut into halves diagonally
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste, optional

Spice Paste:

1-2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, cut into small pieces
1 small turmeric, skin peeled, sliced into pieces
20-25g dried red chili paste
50g peeled shallots
5g belacan (shrimp paste)


Bunga Kantan (Torch Ginger Flower), sliced into small pieces
Bunch of mint leaves, optional


Prepare the spice paste by using a mortar and pestle. First, pound the lemongrass and turmeric together until they become a paste.
Deseed a big handful of dried red chilies. Soak in warm water for about 10 minutes. Pound the dried red chili into a fine paste. You will need about 20-25g depending how spicy you like. Save the unused chili paste in the refrigerator.
Pound the shallots and the shrimp paste together.
Mix the tamarind pulp and water using your fingers, extract the juice out of the tamarind pulp, discard the tamarind pulp and the seeds and save the tamarind juice.
Heat up a pot on medium heat and add the oil. Saute the turmeric and lemongrass before adding the shallots and belacan paste. Continue to stir-fry until aromatic before adding the chili paste. Stir until the oil separates from the spice paste and become red.
Add the tamarind juice into the pot, follow by the water. Bring it to boil before adding the polyganum leaves (laksa leaves) and okra. After the okra is half-cooked, add the fish head. Cover the pot and let cook for a few minutes until the fish is cooked. Add salt and sugar (if using) to taste. Garnish with the bunga kanta and mint leaves. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:

Use one lemongrass if it’s a big lemongrass and two if the lemongrass is thinner.
Fish head might sound intimidating to many of you, but it’s definitely one of the best parts of a fish—it’s fleshy, tender, and absolutely delicious. Curry Fish Head is a popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore.

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44 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Aileen says:

    My mouth is watering looking at your picture…must have curry fish head tonight!!

  2. LIN says:

    how come your are using laksa leaves to cook curry i/o of curry leaves?
    just curious

    • This is a Nyonya version of curry fish head so we used laksa leaves which makes the curry very aromatic. This is not the Indian-style curry fish head.

      • Peter Pantry Raider says:

        I believe the laksa leaf is called “chien hong” in hokkien.

        • nutty says:

          Im a penangnite away from home for quite sometime and start to forget all the wonderful taste and smells of the herbs and spices used in malaysian cooking

          it really bring back memories

          btw the laksa leaves are called daun kesum back home or vietnamese mint in the asian grocer here in australia

          keep up the good work!

  3. Hmm…this is mouth-watering indeed! Yummy!It’s very similar to my mom’s version.

  4. Wow, 2 months already?! Time flies! Looks so delicious!

  5. Candace says:

    Hi, what is Garoupa fish ?? Will we be able to find it in the states here ?? I live in Southern California, Orange County to be exact. If not, what other fish should I substitute it with ?
    Thank you.

    • Peter Pantry Raider says:

      You can substitute with red snapper or any other big fish head but not white pomfret. I cooked barracuda head curry before and everyone loved it. While the name is fish head curry it doesn’t have to be all fish head. You can add in chunks of fish/skate meat as well.

      Be bold and experiment.

  6. kl_changs says:


    Thank you, thank you, thank you and your sis for the recipe, Bee.

  7. Kankana says:

    I know i will love that dish. I am from eastern part of India and we eat fish head and tail .. and everything :D Hubby darling will not eat that for sure :( may be i will make in small quantity just for me :P

    • Peter Pantry Raider says:

      You can add barracuda fish meat (or any other pieces of big fish meat or even ray fish meat if you want) so both you and your husband can enjoy the curry.

  8. That just looks unbelievable, especially with the small flowers on top. When I can get access to a kitchen, I’ll be making some curry fish head!

  9. Just looking at the photo makes me salivate! I miss fish head curry!

  10. saychinso says:

    yum yum. love those bunga kantan and laksa leaves.

  11. Sukaina says:

    My mum would love this. She loves fish curry of any kind!

  12. Fantastic looking curry!

  13. Madeline says:

    I love fish head curry casserole. It’s my favorite dish to order at Malaysian restaurants. I have no idea how to make it. And depending on my dining companions – I often can’t order it. :) Thanks for sharing, I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.

  14. tigerfish says:

    I thought your vacation will be for 6 mths? I miss curry fish head – any style! I usually get my fix whenever I am in Singapore. Just love rice soaked in curry fish head gravy!

  15. Zaidey says:

    Hm… from the reddish colour of the gravy, it looks more like asam pedas rather than a curry.

  16. joey says:

    You are so right that the fish head is one of the best parts of the fish (and my favorite are the cheeks!)…This curry looks so delicious! Asian cuisine really rocks, and you are such a good ambassador of it :)

  17. audrey says:

    Hi BY, I was scrolling my back posts and I thought of you. I have not been surfing blogs much so I decided to check you out. Hahaha, lo and behold! my favourite curry. BY, you are amazing. Do keep in touch. I didn’t know you came home. Wanna home-stay with me the next time you’re in KL? Maybe we can have a cook out!

  18. Marlis says:

    In West Bengal they cook a wonderful Fishhead Dal called Macher Muro Dal.

  19. Love your website! I have had the pleasure of visiting Malaysia twice. Eating was such a joy. I wrote about my experiences in trying to find good local food that wasn’t made for the Western palate. I was staying at the Hotel Impiana and the concierge sent me to the wrong place:

    I figured out what I needed to do after that!

    Keep up the great work!


  20. Brett Borders says:

    Looks delicious… thanks for the authentic recipe (not the “easy” one).

  21. sukanya says:

    fish head curry is looking so colorful and adding laska leaves will definitely bring out the flavours

  22. Wendy says:

    I can practically taste this – looks spicy and flavorful!

  23. Sam Pugeda says:

    WOW, this looks so delicious! I wish I could eat more Malaysian food, I’ve had a few samples at my friends house, but I love the spicy-ness of everything.

  24. Love fish head curry even though I don’t know how to eat it like most Asians! I only eat the cheeks and meaty areas. There was a wonderful beach cafe that served this at Betu Ferranghi, we HAD to order every time. We ate there nearly every day, the BEST! Maybe I’ll make with just fish.

  25. Julieanne says:

    Actually your recipe is Masak Asam Pedas not Fish Head Curry…

  26. Mark says:

    Hi Bee, looks as good as any Curry Fish Head you can get in Penang. I’m curious now if they sell good Curry Fish Head at Malaysian restaurants in the US.

  27. JK says:

    I tried this for my lunch today. It’s really very yummy! Thanks a lot for sharing such a great recipe.

  28. Indu says:

    This curry looks very much like a red fish curry we make in Kerala (south Indian state), which is also eaten with white/brown rice. But the recipe is quite different. The Kerala fish curry uses red chili powder, garlic, ginger, shallots, curry leaves, mustard seeds, coconut oil and sun dried and smoked gamboge. Will be blogging about it soon.

  29. Finding fresh fish heads is not a problem for me. I can walk out in the back yard and just catch them. Now the bunga kantan is a different story.

  30. chris says:

    Do you have a recipe for Tumeric Fish?

  31. Ai Ling says:

    I have tried this gulai today, my hubby loves it so much! It’s so delicious!

  32. Amanda says:

    This looks amazing. I’ve seen fish heads being sold in the supermarket before and always wondered what they are used for. Do you think any type of fish would be okay? I do not have the same type of fish available here as in the US…
    And forgive my ignorance, but is the head actually eaten?
    I have a laksa plant in my back garden that I’ve been wanting to learn to use. Or I did, before my gardener ran a weed whacker into it. Hopefully I can nurse it back to health.

  33. Maia says:

    Hi, I just got back from Malaysia and we purchased 3-4 packets of curry mixes to bring home. One is Nyonya Asam Kari Segera Pedas (Instant Curry Nyonya Assam Mix (Spicy) by Singlong.

    I know this is a fish curry – but just curious – could we use the same sauce on chicken? Or would it be really awful?


  34. Candice says:

    I can’t find laksa leaves here.. Can I use curry leaves ?

  35. lon says:

    I live in Sydney, Australia. Today, I am going to cook it with Ling Fish head. I believe it should taste better than Garoupa. We shall see.

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