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Hed Chef recipe: Red garoupa fish head with fermented bean sauce

Hedy Khoo on 11 Jul 2019

The New Paper


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If you love fish head but want something non-spicy, this recipe could be the one for you.


In April, I wrote a recipe for steamed fish head inspired by a dish I ate at a hawker centre zi char stall. Sadly, a recent visit to the hawker centre revealed that the zi char stall is no longer there. It is quite demoralising to witness the rate at which stalls come and go.


To cheer me up, a friend took me to another hawker centre for song fish head cooked in taucheo (fermented bean sauce). Unfortunately, the fish head was not well-handled and I was put off. Song fish head, which is ultra gelatinous, is a personal favourite of mine. But I seldom eat it outside because I have too often been disappointed by the horrific muddy fishy taste.


But what piqued my interest was the hawker's addition of fresh lime to the taucheo gravy. It was likely aimed at ridding the song fish of its odour. It did not help but the citrusy lift to the taucheo gravy made an impression.


For this week, I decided to have a go at that taucheo sauce using red garoupa fish head, which is much easier to work with as the meat is sweet and flavoursome without any overpowering smell.



  • 1.2kg red garoupa fish head (788g after removing the gills)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white rice vinegar
  • 20g ginger, sliced
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 20g ginger, finely chopped
  • 35g garlic, chopped
  • 1½ tbsp taucheo (fermented bean sauce)
  • 280ml water
  • 2 tsp light soya sauce
  • ⅓ tsp sugar
  • Dash of pepper
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 drop of dark soya sauce
  • 1 stalk of spring onion, finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh coriander
  • 1 lime




1. Place fish head in a dish. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and the white rice vinegar. Rub the mixture all over the fish, then rinse.


2. Use kitchen towel to pat dry the fish head. Use the remaining salt to rub all over the fish. Place the fish head on a heat-resistant steaming plate. Place ginger slices under the fish head and on top of it.


3. Bring water to boil in a steamer. Once the water reaches boiling time, place fish in the steamer to steam for 10 minutes. Once cooked, transfer the fish into deep serving dish. Discard the ginger slices and cooking liquid from steaming the fish.


4. To prepare the gravy, heat the cooking oil over medium heat in a clean pan or wok.


5. Add the chopped ginger and fry for 45 seconds.


6. Add the chopped garlic and fry for 45 seconds.


7. Add the taucheo and fry for a minute over medium-low heat.


8. Add the 280ml water and turn the heat up to medium-high.


9. Once the mixture starts to simmer, add the light soya sauce, sugar and pepper.


10. In a bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of water and cornflour.


11. Add the cornflour mixture to the gravy.


12. Once it comes to a boil, add the drop of dark soya sauce and stir well.


13. Pour the gravy over the cooked fish head.


14. Garnish with spring onion and coriander.


15. Squeeze the lime over the fish head.


16. Serve immediately.


Source: The New Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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