March 20, 2009

Fish Head Thoran.../Fish Head Stirfry.


Once every two months, I go thru a barbaric ritual. I go to the fish market and buy a whole King Fish, better known as King Mackeral here.
Earlier, I would get the fish cleaned and cut into steak slices. In the brief English that the fish monger knew, he would lift up the fish head and ask, "No head?" and I would make a disgusted face and shake my head signaling no. The guys there would look at each other and one would say something in Spanish, causing incredulous smiles from the others. They probably consider it a delicacy.
Did I mention the fish head and tail curry that was so relished by every one else during my last visit home? I just sat and stared in shock and awe.
Visions of parents and in-laws disapproving the wastage of good fish would clamor for attention but I would refuse to give in. Unless family was visiting, there was no one to eat the fish head, so why tag home with it only to stink up my waste bin?

Then my friend's mom visited and showed her a simple way to use up the fish head. My friend started taking the fish head home and making thoran with it. She suggested the same to me and I had a mixed reaction of curiosity and yuckiness. I got reminded of the Food TV's Next Food Network Star show, where the sole Indian contestant was shown the door when she couldn't handle raw fish.
Finally curiosity took over and I decided to try it. The first time I did take it home and followed her instructions and made the thoran....BUT I didn't eat it. DH ate it unsuspectingly and liked it. Of course he hadn't seen how it was made.

The next time, I made it and kept it in the fridge. Two days later, after the memory of the whole process had slightly faded from my mind, I tasted it and could appreciate why so many of my family loved fish head. It had a buttery rich taste to it, kind of like fish and crab mixed together. This is not a real thoran as I did not add coconut but you could add that too if you want.

Now the fish monger happily packs the whole fish in ice and I make a face thinking of the work after I get home. Why do I do this exercise in primitive cooking?
I like it but I have decided not to eat it the same day I make it. I wait for it to age in the fridge before setting it on the dinner table!!

Making the thoran, dealing with the fish's head, teeth and eyes.... is an experience in grossing out itself!! I am sure hardly any of my readers will try this out but still had to post it just for the fear factor value!!
You could even make this with any big fish pieces, doesn't have to be the head.

You Will Need:
Serves 2-3
King Fish Head or any large fish head-1
Ginger_garlic paste-1 to 2 tablespoon

Red Onion or shallots- sliced- 1 cup
Green Chilies- 3-4 slit length wise.
Turmeric-1/8 tsp
Red Chili Powder-1/2 tsp or more as per taste
Coriander Powder-1/2 to 3/4 tsp depending on taste
Black Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Kudam Puli or Regular tamarind- 1 tiny dry piece
Salt-to taste
Oil-2 tablespoon
Curry leaves-1 sprig

Preparation:
Wash the fish head pieces (add tail or any other ugly looking pieces) and put it in a non-stick or steel saute pan with the ginger garlic paste and salt. Take care not to heat the pan before adding fish. If the pan is hot, the fish will stick to it. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Open and if there is water let out by the fish, cook uncovered for 5 minute or more so that the water gets evaporated. After the fish cools down, take a deep breath and start removing only the meat from the fish. There will be eyes and teeth and all that but keep at it. Remove all the meat possible from all the nooks and corners. Keep aside and make sure you get rid of the waste immediately.
Heat oil in a pan( cast iron or non stick works best. Fish sticks to steel)and drop in the curry leaves. Then add the onions and green chilies. Saute till the onions start turning a little brown at the edges and add the red chili powder, turmeric and coriander powder. Stir a couple of times and then add the fish, one tiny piece of either dry kudam puli /tamarind and stir well. Continue sauteing on medium or low heat till the fish gets a little dry and crisp and then add the pepper powder. Add oil if you feel its too dry. Adjust salt as needed. At this stage, you could add a pinch of fennel powder, a tablespoon of coconut grated etc but I prefer it without it. Don't let the fish dry out too much. Serve with rice or chapathis.

45 comments:

Asha said...

Cooking with cleaned up fish steak is hard for me, never mind about it's head, Teeth and eyes! :D

Looks great though, I like Thoran recipe! :)

indosungod said...

Shaheen, I know what you mean but I happen to love the fish head and tail in curries. Never tried to make a stirfry out of the meat in though. Looks delicious though.

Sakshi said...

Am literally crying while reading your post...have been waiting since ages for ur yummy posts and u go ahead and post things which i can never even think of making...first it was beef and now fish head...sobs!! Still am gonna march down the frozen aisle and get a big chunk of fish without head and try this one...like u said just for the fear factor...me handling fish is gonna be one hell of a circus!! Give me more chicken recipes any time plzzz....

RP said...

Aha! and I always make a red curry with the king fish head. How do you slice the whole fish? I ask them to slice it and include the fish head too..They pack the head separately for me. Talking of my red fish curry, I have a picture of it for the blog for over an year now..Every time I look at it, I don't feel like like posting it. A smiling fish head in a curry! Might be disgusting to some. :) My mom makes fish head curry but it never comes to the dining table. I used to pity her eating the head leaving all the other good pieces for the rest of the family. Now that I've started cooking and eating it, I know she wasn't doing that big of a sacrifice :). It does taste better after a day, just like any other kerala fish curry. We both love it and it is perfect for our dining table. Kids would make disgusted faces though.
Thoran looks good.

Suparna said...

Hi,
LOL, Enjoyed the write-up :) I too don't prefer using fish head for some strange reasons....lol the click looks nice actually can't make out that it's made out of fish head!!
Happy weekend!
ciya :)

Anonymous said...

with all the work involved..naah...shaheen..drop me out of this one..:-)

Ann said...

Precious Recipe there Shaheen..I have some vague memories of tasting this in childhood...looks simply superb..H ha can imagine what the spanish talk was all about !!

mona said...

I was in my junior college when my aunt introduced this fish head curry to me. I had the same reaction 'disgusted', but when I sometime somehow tasted it, has been my fav from then :-)
Looks yum.

Diane said...

Interesting! I must admit that although I love to eat the fish tail and fins (mmmmmm...), I'm kind of a typical white chick who can't handle eating the head. I do use heads for soup stock though.

This recipe fascinates me. I find it especially encouraging that you and your hubby liked this, despite previous prejudices. I am going to give it a shot! Thanks for the encouragement...

Srivalli said...

sounds interesting Shaheen...I have never cooked with either...:)...when you have time, do reply to my mail..:PP..I know you might be busy!

lan said...

i am with you on the head shaheen. just couldn't take it. at home too we had never tried it. so it took me a while when my husband brought these home with the heads on as they are used to it. now, it is not that bad when you fry it and the kids have fun looking at the head. so i am sort of neutral. your recipe on the other hand is interesting and i plan to try it with regular fish pieces as we are are on the lookout for fun fish recipes during this lent season.

Seena said...

Shaheen, this reminded me of "ayalathala", we fight for it when curried.. :)
Engane thoran undakki ennu ippozhum albhutham thonnunnu.. :)
Looks wonderful!

Mallugirl said...

Asha, i grew into a fish cooker.. was not one growing up.. would take that chance to run away from the kitchen.

Mallugirl said...

Indo, u are a hardcore fish lover then!! maybe next year, i will try eating the curry.:)))

sakshi, u don't make fish? and no beef? are u sure u are from calicut? how do u survive?

RP, so ur mom was protecting her chatti of fish from u. what will u do now when u visit her? fish head curry.. remember ur finger cookies? can't be grosser than that.. u should post it. i would love to see how u make it.

Mallugirl said...

Suparna, since its only the meat left,, the yucky fish look is not there. u could try it with even canned tuna.

Mallugirl said...

Anon.. i don't blame u.. u need a particular frame of mind to make the fish head.

Mishmash ! said...

Shaheen, that must have been one big fish head to get so much of flesh from it, alle?i make meen thala curry -the red one- but never thought of using it this way.....acco to my mother , fish head is the tastiest of all its parts...she is very happy if we give her that piece....:)

very interesting recipe and appetizing pic too :)

notyet100 said...

tried singapor fish head curry long time bck,..;-)tis one looks appealin,..

JISHA said...

Couldn't resist leaving a comment on ur irrestible fish head thoran. A true blue malu is a one who relishes meen talla totally.

veena said...

Hi ...
I never made fish head thoran ..Still reading ur post i nw its tastes great .I will surely try is ..
I love ur recipes ..Keep up the great work dear friend

Mallugirl said...

Blogger Mallugirl said...

Ann, spanish people eat a lot of fish and they eat every part with enjoyment.

Mona, maybe in another year, i will start eating the curry too!

Diana, the cooking of the head is just steaming for the soup. if u like fish, and can't take out the meat from the stock, then u will like this.:))

Sri, u don't eat fish? i did respond to ur mail, see u at the roundup.

Ian, sorry forgot abt ur lent even though my friend who gave me this recipe is also observing it!! so u eat fish during this month?yeah, u could try it with any fish.

seena, edakku oru vattu kerum..appam thoran undakum.. can't do it every day.

shn, one king fish weighing abt 7-9 pounds.. its not a lot.. around 2 cups finally after making into thoran.delicacy alle?

Notyet100.. this is way better than any fish head curry.:) hhi hi.

Jisha, by that respect, i am not yet there.. i can't devour the head unless its as a thoran!!

Mar 23, 2009 12:26:00 PM

Sharmilee! :) said...

Thanks for stopping by....The pepper corns can be adjusted may be u can reduce it, which will be mild!

Superchef said...

wow! wonder how you managed to do that! hats off to you!!

SAJITHA said...

I really enjoyed reading this entry, coz ur queasiness abt fish head almost mirrors mine....my parents used to wolf down an entire pot of the red fish head curry at one go,while my sister s and i tried to distance ourselves from the head slurping in case they insisted we try it too....my mother even went as far as to suggest its better when the fish head is slightly spoilt as in cheenjade....HORROR..I am feeling slightly nauseous even as I type this..but ur pic looks tempting ...almost makes me want to go and get a fish head...will let u know if i take the plunge ...u hooked me on the buttery taste description...if it doesnt taste that way expect a fish head in ur mailbox...

Mallugirl said...

sajitha, cheenja meen thala.. only parents and die hard mallus will eat that.. count my dad into that group.. i am very sensitive to fish freshness. do trythis.. if u don't like it, i will take up the blame. the thoran if i gave u without u knowing its fish thala, just tastes like meen thoran!! actually better.

Anonymous said...

here fish head curry is a delicacy..very expensive!!!!
the 'charu' does taste good...
but this recipe is not for me;)
ki

sra said...

The Spouse is always grossed out by the eyes - I've never tried de-meating the head, always thought there wasn't much meat in it but just put it in the gravy as it's supposed to add flavour, anyway.

I enjoyed reading this post, not sure I'll ever make it, though. Just wanted to tell you I think of your photos every time I attempt a non-veg post - mine look very bad and I can't bring myself to post them - I don't know how you manage it.

Mallugirl said...

hehe ki.. even i don't make it often. what do u mean its a delicacy? do u have to buy the head seperately? i can't bear to taste the chaar once i see the head in it. i am quite a queasy person.

sra, so u eat, that means..right? deboning the head is not fun. don't bother if u eat the curry anyway.its too much work.
thanks for ur comment on the photos. i dunno how i do it.. i don't distinguish between the veg and nonveg photos.:))

Myra said...

Hi Shaheen
Well i think i better take a surgeons degree before i make this!!!
Very psychological,if you had served this to me without saying what it was,
with out a doubt i would have eaten every bit!!
Thankyou for sharing this,keep well
yours Myra

Anonymous said...

Hi Mallugirl,

I love your blog and the authentic malabar recipes. Thank you so much. I am a vegetarian and so I tried making a vegetable biryani using your shrimp biryani stuff and it was sooo yummy.. thank you so much! I hope you will keep shring these recipes..

Anu

mathew said...

I dont have anything to say..but courier it please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mallugirl said...

Myra, surgeon!! yeah, this is really an psychological experience. i guess we eat whatever we are comfortable seeing in our childhood unless we become really adventurous.

Anu, that's a new one.. veg biryani shrimp style. i have to try that out now. i hardly ever make veg biryani so maybe u can post that!!

mathew, ah well finally it may taste a little better than ur sardine fry which by the way is exactly what i do with the canned sardines here. i thot u were a mean meen thala foodie.

Anonymous said...

yep shaen, head can be bought seperately..and there are eateries which specialize in fish head curry!!!
ki

Miri said...

Brave is the word that comes to mind!! must have tasted really good for you to become a convert!

alice said...

I make fish head curry but this is something new to me... it looks delicious!

Bervin said...

Shaheen...Its looks great...would love to eat if someone could make it...Can't imagine cleaning it though...You can try a little variation here.Just try making avial as you do with veggies.Add tamarind..no yogurt.Mix it with all the masala and tamarind toghether and season with curry leaves,red chillies,shallots and mustard.I'm positive you would love it.

ashaan said...

I happen to be a big fish-head fan, thanks to my dad who taught us how to eat the large curried Sear fish head! It was cooked whole and was such an adventure in itself... we sisters would always fight over it.

Will try the thoran soon. Looks interesting.

Nish said...

Hi Shaheen,Nice snap of fish head thoran.Cant make it out that its prepared with a fish head.Anyway I feel it was well worth the effort.. I will tell to my mom about this dish.She loves to eat fish head in the curry.

whitefieldbb@gmail.com said...

I laughed so hard...you made my day!
Reminds me of my father who would occasionally roar for 'Goats Head'. My Mom who's family had never made anything like that would pretend she hadn't heard.
But fish eyes...that brings back a memory of some Mom frying and sending whole pomfrets through her daughter for us starving girls and some of them would argue as to who had a right to the eyes...according to them it was the best part!
My aunt would use the fish heads and tails in a curry while the rest of the fish was fried and I loved that.
To each their own!!!

Diane said...

I finally got around to making this tonight - with some super-fresh salmon heads I snapped up opportunistically from a couple selling them by the side of curb near the Oakland farmer's market. The heads looked bright-eyed and luscious and I'm sure they were all gone by 9 am, so I got lucky. The dish was amazing, and I will certainly be making it again. I actually wasn't at all freaked out by all the gnarly bits, although it was a bit messy getting the meat all out. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing such an incredible recipe with us.

Lisa Vijoo said...

Help Help.....Nothing to do vt fish head.Though i LOVE fish head curry.....but I want to make squid toran.....How long should the squid b cooked for??
Once before i think i overcooked n it turned out quite rubbery!!!

Mallugirl said...

Lisa,
Squid.. barely needs to be cooked. treat it like shrimp.when it changes color its almost done.

Lisa said...

Thanks Mallugirl.Smile.

Anonymous said...

Delicious! I just love fish head in curry or even fried. Never knew you could make a thoran out of it. Thanks for the recipe.

Sowmya Pillai said...

nice!!! story and pic both are tempting..bought one fish head just to try this dish.....