FOOD: FISH HEAD + GREEN PLANTAINS
I am indebted to my friend Naoshin for introducing me to the big tray full of fish heads in the Asian market's seafood section. These heads are the byproduct of the steaks they sell. Hence the heads are sold at a fraction of the price of the steaks. She also taught me to get the fish heads cut into small pieces right then and there.
The Bangladeshi cuisine has an array of small dishes cooked with pieces of fish head - be that any kind of big fish. Bigger the fish, bigger the head, and therefore more pieces. Once you get a cut up fish head from the store - you can cook it any way you like with any vegetable or legume.
Back to my fish head recipe. So you will find that the seafood section will mostly have either salmon heads or catfish heads. We get the salmon, and I almost always cook it with green plantains. Green plantains are my most favorite...I like it even more than potatoes. It just has this really hearty and warm feeling that satisfies the soul....just like carbs do!
You will need:
1 fish head all cut up
6/7 green plantains cut lengthwise into thick sticks
1 medium onion sliced
5/6 slit green chilies (use your own discretion to control the level of heat)
6/7 cloves of garlic pureed with 3/4 pieces of green chilies
1 tbsp of ground mustard or mustard paste (I grind my own in a spice grinder)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 a cup of mustard oil
Salt to taste
So once you have washed the fish head and prepared the plantain - take all the other ingredients in a separate bowl or in the pot that you will be cooking in. Thoroughly mix in these ingredients with your hands. I usually put on plastic gloves for this. Mixing it with your hands will release the sweetness of the onions, breakdown the spices so that they are infused with the oil, and all the flavors will easily reach the two main ingredients. There will be very minimal stirring in this cooking. To help with that is the reason for mixing the spices so well together. Once the ingredients are mixed well - time to mix in the fish head and the green plantains.
And then it is time to cook. Place the pot with everything in it on medium high heat. Add about a cup of water to it. Cover and cook until the plantains are soft. Check every so often to see if more water is needed. Instead of stirring, hold the pot with both hands and give it a soft whirl just enough to have the ingredients inside move around a little. Stirring with a spatula will break the soft plantains. Therefore this little trick. Some people like this dish runny and some don't. So add water to your liking. The plantains and the small pieces of fish head cook very fast. Once the plantains are cooked and you have adjusted the seasoning, place the heat to the lowest level. Add a dash of mustard oil into the pot and keep it covered in the lowest heat setting for 10/15 mins. This will aid in the oil rising to the top and everything to settle down a bit. The fresh drizzle of mustard oil will add to the fragrance when you are ready to eat. Serve with a steaming side of cooked rice. Enjoy!