“Fish Head” is an iconic Penang-style preparation of fish (head alone) marinated in curry assorted with vegetables and spices. This dish is packed with a punch and leaves the eater lip smacking. Saucy yet enticing, filled with brinjals(eggplant), ladies fingers and mushy tomatoes, it is a great accompaniment for those spice loving taste buds.
Fish head or Meen thala is said to have its roots from Kerala, in India. Though some say it has its origins from Malaysia. So far, the story goes like this, that the fish head was concocted by MJ Gomez, in 1952 who owned an Indian restaurant in Sophia Road catering to some of the Chinese businessmen frequenting his restaurant.
Served in a clay-pot at Arunachala Bhavan and decorated with sliced pineapples, this is absolutely a no fruity curry. A savoury flavoured dish with just that little tamarind to give the dish an extra lift. This sweet-sour gravy’s flavour is enhanced with coconut milk. A great combo with steamed rice, the fish head curry is also a good side-dish for Indian breads. There are other variations of the same curry also.
It is important to note that consuming fish on a weekly basis is good for health. As such the human body cannot produce omega 3s. Fish is an important source of omega 3 fatty acids. It is the omega 3 fatty acids that keep set tune a healthy heart and brain. EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish. But this little finned sea creature is additionally packed with a whole lot of proteins, vitamins, and nutrients that keeps blood pressure in control as well.
Both green and red chillies provide the hotness and spice for the dish. Further to balance the taste of tamarind, sugar is added that gives the curry a tangy finish. Tamarind has a history of medicinal uses as well. Tamarind eases stomach discomfort, aids in good digestion and at times also used as a laxative. A great medicine for fever, sore throat, rheumatism, inflammation and also a sun stroke, the tangy tamarind is a kitchen essential in every house hold. So the fish head curry is also healthy in every way.
The eggplant and ladies finger are both steamed separately, until it is soft enough for consumption. Eggplant is rich in fiber, potassium and vitamins. It is also very effective for treating diabetes, obesity and other disorders.
Ladies finger also on the other hand is high on fibre content, treats diabetes and a wide range of cancers. Ladies fingers also has good folates content that is essential to reduce neural tube defects in new born.
The whole fish heads, usually from that of red-snapper is cut into huge fish steaks and marinated in salt for half an hour. Sautéed in ghee with thinly shredded ginger and garlic cloves the Arunachala Bhavan curry paste is fragrant and balanced as cooked.
The fish head curry is prepared using special Arunachala Bhavan masala powder which is a mixture of spices like coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, black pepper, ground fenugreek and a few drops of sunflower oil.
Kasoori methi leaves are added for extra flavour as well. Kasoori methi is nothing but dried fenugreek leaves. It provides a combination just like that of celery and fennel. This is usually crumbled and sprinkled like garnishing. The curry is garnished off with chopped spring onions and fried onions as well.