Fish head soup Fish head soup

There is so much more to fish than fillets. Fish head is a delicacy in oriental cooking. Too bad that in many countries, fish heads are discarded as not being fit for human consumption. They’re missing a lot. The head is the most flavorful part of the fish. The heads of fairly large fishes have plenty of meat too.

This fish head recipe is derived from a classic Filipino dish called swam, something my grandmother used to cook when I was a kid. While the classic swam uses asohos, the small white fish used for making tempura, I chose to cook it using the head of a salmon instead.

To cook this fish head soup, the head of any fairly large fish may be substituted–lapu-lapu, maya-maya, tanguigue… The ideal weight should be around half a kilo. For best results, use patis (fermented fish sauce) for seasoning instead of salt. Plenty of garlic, ginger and onions are a must.

Ingredients :

1 fish head (salmon, lapu-lapu, maya-maya, tanguigue), cleaned
1 whole garlic, crushed and peeled
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
6 c. of boiling water
2 tbsps. of cooking oil
a bunch of sili leaves

Cooking procedure :

Heat the cooking oil in a large deep saucepan or casserole. Saute the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds. Pour in the boiling water. Lower the fish head into the hot water. Season with patis. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish head.

Meanwhile, pick the sili leaves, discarding the stalks.

Check the fish. Add more patis, is necessary. Turn off the heat, add the sili leaves and cover. Leave for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot.

Connie Veneracion

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

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9 Responses

  1. Charles jr says:

    I personally have enjoyed 3 small catfish heads in my soup. Their flavor is a very good surprise. Maybe you will try it as well

  2. Susan says:

    Hi there, this recipe sounds great. What is sili however? Is there something else I can use if I don’t have sili available? Cheers for sharing this recipe.

  3. renee says:

    Do I take the eyes out before boiling?

  1. December 11, 2009

    […] in a clear broth with leafy green vegetables. I have a few of that in the archive — one with sili leaves and a sinigang version. But I’ve often dreamed of a fish head soup that was more filling, […]

  2. April 16, 2011

    […] the bits of head, tail, and spine that are usually discarded after filleting — are eaten widely across Asia, almost always in the form of a stew or hot pot. Japan, of course, is no exception, and […]

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