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:
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.
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
Curry leaves-1 sprig
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.