Does this braised fish head with dried beancurd (fuchuk) look appetising or gruesome to you? 🙂
It definitely makes my mouth water. This dish is my father’s invention – well sort of. Years ago, while he was buying groceries at the local market, he saw a particularly fresh looking piece of fish head. Being a fish lover, he was tempted to buy it but didn’t know how to prepare it.
As a teacher who had to look after a young child as well as an ageing parent (my grandma, who lived with us, had dementia and could be a handful), he didn’t have time for complicated recipes. Then one of the ladies at the market overheard his conundrum and suggested this simple recipe.
Fish head is considered a delicacy in Malaysia.
Popular ways of cooking this part of the fish usually involves using lots of spices and herbs to “tone down” the fishy smell, such as curry fish head, assam fish head, to name a few.
This dish, however, does nothing of that sort. You fry the head, then braise it with fried beancurd (fuchuk) in water and season it with soya sauce. That’s literally it!
Don’t underestimate a simple dish with few ingredients though. By infusing the collagen-rich fish head with the umami notes of the dried beancurd and soy sauce, you get a comfort dish that’s wonderfully hearty and flavourful.
I haven’t had this dish for years. On my recent trip to Ipoh, I had an intense craving for it, so I asked Dad if he could cook it for me. It was just as good as I remembered it. Thanks Dad! Next time my turn 🙂
Braised Fuchuk Fish Head
- 1 medium-size fish head, halved and salted
- 1 pack fried beancurd (fuchuk), cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- light soya sauce to taste
- oil for frying
- Rub salt all over fish and marinate for 15 minutes or so. In the meantime, soak fuchuk in water for a while.
- Heat up some oil in wok and put fish head in, the outer part down. Fry until golden brown, then flip over and fry the other side. Remove from heat.
- Heat up 1-2 tbs of oil and add garlic. Fry until fragrant, then add fuchuk. Add enough water to cover. Boil for five minutes to draw the flavours out of the fuchuk. Then add fish.
- Finally, add soya sauce. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Your dish is ready to serve!
- Any fish head can be used, but my dad usually goes for "ka lap" (sorry, don't know the equivalent in English or Malay!) or "sek pan" (grouper).
- If you are concerned about "fishiness", add a few slices of ginger when you are frying the garlic.
- Do not, I repeat, do NOT cut up the fish head into piece. The flesh will break up while frying and the sight won't be pretty.
- This is one of those dishes where the fish needs to be fried in oil, no short cut.