Siron ka Shorba was a frequently cooked dish at my parents’ place and I loved eating it with plain rice, though back then I never knew what it really was and probably wouldn’t have relished it so much if I did! With most people there is a certain psychological barrier when it comes to eating parts of meat that don’t look perfectly presentable and pretty, right! . It was much later that I found out it was actually a fish head curry recipe – a popular and delicious way in South and South East Asian cuisines to use every last bit of a good produce. When cooked in a luscious curry, you will find the fish heads every bit as inviting as any other expensive fillet of fish.

While eating the clean boneless fish fillet is a very enjoyable experience, we must not forget that fish and chicken are not made of just boneless pieces to be devoured mindlessly. Now I respect the idea of cooking fish heads because it makes a delicious family meal out of something that’s otherwise thrown in the dustbin as useless. Fish heads are not only packed with delicious fat and tender meat but fish bones and brains are rich in vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and calcium.

My mom cooked Siron ka Shorba in the Punjabi style – caramelised onions blended with yogurt and spices. I love that traditional version that I grew up eating, especially in winters, but I find it a little heavy for warmer months. The Southeast Asian inspired version of Fish Head Curry recipe with tamarind paste, ginger and coconut milk, on the other hand, is a light curry that has refreshing tangy flavours and fruity aromas. If you can’t find tamarind where you live, fresh lemon juice will do quite well too because sour goes great with the mild sweetness of coconut milk.

Add a few seasonal vegetables like okra, carrots, eggplants, even zucchini to balance the curry and make it more filling and flavourful.

As a responsible grown up now it makes perfect sense and seems just the right thing to do to use all parts of fish from nutrition, environment and economic points of view. Besides, who doesn’t like a meal that gets done in minutes and tastes finger-licking-good!

500-600g Fish head, chopped into pieces
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon tamarind soaked in 1/4 cup water or 1/4 cup lemon juice
2 carrots
8-9 okra or 1 big eggplant or 1 zucchini
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4-5 dry red chillies
salt to taste
2 curry leaves
1+1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut or sunflower oil
Green chilli peppers and fresh coriander for garnish

This Is What You Do:
Wash and pat dry fish head pieces. Rub turmeric and 1 tablespoon lemon juice all over it and set aside for 10 minutes.

If using tamarind, soak in 1/4 cup warm water for ten minutes.

Wash and pat dry carrots, okra/egg plant/zucchini. Peel and cut carrots into long strips. Cut the ends off okra, cut eggplant/zucchini into thick wedges(if using).

Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, red chilli, curry leaves and salt in an electric blender. Add a little water to make a thick paste.

Add oil to a deep, wide mouthed pan. Add vegetables. Sauté on medium heat till the vegetables are toasted on the outside and half cooked.

Add the spice blend paste with a splash of water to the vegetables in the pan. Add fish head pieces. Keep sautéing till the masala gets darker in colour and a thin line of oil appears on the sides. Avoid stirring with a spoon, instead shake the pan to keep things from sticking at the bottom.

Add coconut milk and 1/2 cup water, reduce heat and cover the pan for 6-8 minutes to let curry simmer and flavours blend with each other.

Add water from soaking tamarind or lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and balance of salty, sweet and sour. Adjust according to your own taste. Give curry a boil and turn off heat.

Garnish with green chilli peppers and fresh coriander. Serve hot with roti or rice OR on its own as a nourishing soup.

Serves 4

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