Tuesday 1 September 2015

Chinese Braised Fish Head 红烧鱼头

I bought a sea bream (紅歌里) fish head without planning what to do with it. I was immersed in the thought of husband loving fish heads and grabbed it immediately when I saw one. It took me a day to decide on braising half the fish head and try replicating the famous 红烧鱼头

Mine's of course a home-cooked version as I do not have a 'big open fire' stove like tze char stalls.... 

Ingredients (enough for 2 to 3 pax) :

  • 1/2 fish head (I used sea bream 紅歌里. Any other fishes would be alright)(Clean and pat dry fish head. Rub the entire fish head with a little salt beforehand.)
  • 10 slices of ginger
  • 8 cloves of garlic (pressed)
  • 2 stalks of spring onions (chopped to about 5cm)
  • 3 whole chilli padi (no need to slice or deseed)
  • 1/3 of an ikan bills stock cube (to enhance the flavour)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp shoaxing wine
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • cooking oil

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon)    

Tip : If you decide to cook an entire fish head instead of half, do slit it into 2 halves for consistency during the frying process. It is difficult to fry an entire fish head nicely due to its thickness. Assemble them back together when you do food plating. 

Method :

Heat skillet/wok with cooking oil at medium heat. Ensure enough oil to pan fry the fish head.
Add aromatics (ginger, garlic, chilli padi) and saute. You may choose to include spring onions at this stage. My personal preference is to keep them for later. 
Scoop up aromatics and put aside when ginger and garlic start browning. Leave the oil in the skillet/wok.
Place fish head in skillet/wok. Skin side face down. Turn to high heat and pan fry fish head. Do not attempt to flip it in the next 2 minutes. Otherwise, the skin and meat would stick to your skillet/wok.
Tilt the skillet/wok and do a test after 2 minutes. If the fish is able to sway in your skillet/wok and does not stick, it is ready to be flipped. Pan fry the reverse side for same 2 minutes. By then, the fish head should have a light golden brown colour. 
Add 2 cups of water and all aromatics that were put aside earlier, plus 1/3 of an ikan bills stock cube. Do not forget the spring onions this time. Cover with lid and let it cook for 2 minutes.It would give us a fresh fish broth. 
Mix 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 2 tbsp shaoxing wine, 1 tbsp vinegar, 2 tsp sugar in a bowl and pour onto fish head. Turn to low-medium heat. Continue to braise fish in skillet/wok for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of fish head).

Spoon the sauces onto fish head constantly to ensure cooking consistency on both sides. We should see the broth/sauce being cooked down as the fish head absorbs it. Add another 2 tbsp shaoxing wine and turn off heat.
Carefully transfer fish head, aromatics and sauce onto serving plate.
Even the aromatic ingredients can be eaten.


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