The salmon head is on promo this week at S&R, so we got one to cook at home. Don’t be intimidated by salmon head! It’s actually quite easy to cook. It’s also one of the least expensive cuts of salmon, so if you’re having a salmon craving but don’t want to blow your food budget on salmon fillets, maybe a salmon head is a good alternative.
Fish heads can be considered a delicacy, appreciated by those who like the softer meat and and are aware of the nutritional benefits. There is still a lot of meat in the fish head, and people who like the gelatinous, collagen-rich parts will also enjoy the texture.
Salmon heads are loaded with Omega-3 and other bad cholesterol lowering properties.
HOW TO CLEAN SALMON HEAD
Before cooking the salmon head, you first have to clean it. The one we got from S&R was already split in half and had most of the unwanted parts removed, except for the gills.
Next, check if the gills are still there. If they are, you need to remove them. I pulled them out with my hands, and used a knife to cut through the parts that were strongly attached to the fish head.
After removing the gills, check to make sure if there are still any gill parts that you missed. Rinse off any bloody bits from the salmon head. You can remove any remaining fish scales, but I didn’t want to deal with the mess so I just left them. You can also cut off the fins if you want to, but I totally forgot to do it because I was taking pictures. But basically, the thing that you really need to remove are the gills.
COOKING THE SALMON HEAD
You can make soup with salmon head, but I usually prefer to fry it.
Quickly marinating the salmon head:
I rubbed about a tablespoon of salt all around the clean salmon head, both pieces, inside and outside.
This salmon head didn’t have any fishy smell, but to be on the safe side, I poured about half a can of beer into the salmon, made sure all the salmon pieces, especially the inside parts, were coated with the beer.
I already had a can of beer leftover from cooking roast chicken so I just used what I had. But you can also use whatever light-colored alcohol you have lying around. A good alternative would be Chinese cooking wine, more commonly known as siok tong. The purpose of the beer is to remove any fishy smell from the fish. You only need to marinate the salmon head for around 2-5 minutes.
That’s basically all you need to do to the salmon head before cooking.
Frying the salmon head:
After the salmon head soaked in the beer for a couple of minutes, I poured out all the liquid, and I lightly coated the fish heads with some cornstarch and fried them in medium hot oil.
My new discovery is that frying fish using Grande Rice Bran Oil does not produce any fishy smell! I don’t know if it’s a combination of the beer soak or if it’s just because of the oil used, but there was hardly any fishy smell when I was frying.
Salmon heads cook fast. I only fried them for about 1-2 minutes per side on medium high heat.
After you’ve fried the salmon heads, you can choose to add whatever sauce you want. A common sauce to use for salmon head is a Southeast-Asian style curry. You can also do a salted egg yolk sauce, a teriyaki sauce, a lemon butter sauce, or any sauce that you like. Salmon is a strong-flavored fish that can withstand strong sauces.
I didn’t have the ingredients for a Thai or Singaporean curry at home, so I decided to do a sweet chili sauce instead.
MAKING THE SAUCE
While the fish was marinating, I quickly chopped up some aromatics: ginger, onions, garlic.
I used 2 teaspoons of Korean gochujang (chili sauce), 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 cup of water, a splash of cane vinegar, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, fish sauce, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. I also added half a tablespoon of butter at the end to round out the flavors.
To make the sauce:
I sauteed the ginger, onions and garlic until they were toasty and fragrant. Again, I used Grande Rice Bran Oil to saute. Then I added the gochujang and mixed.
Next, I added the water, the tomato paste, the brown sugar, and a splash of vinegar (just a small amount, not enough to make it sour). I mixed them all, let it cook for a bit, then gave the sauce a taste. Then I added a few splashes of the Thai fish sauce to taste, then added freshly ground black pepper and the butter.
Let the sauce boil for a few seconds, lower the heat and then taste it again to see if the taste is delicious. If not, adjust the seasonings to your liking – add some more brown sugar, fish sauce, black pepper or even gochujang for more depth and chili heat until you get the taste you like.
Once you’re happy with your sauce, add the fried salmon heads. Remember that I used cornstarch to coat the salmon heads before frying? The cornstarch is now going to help thicken the sauce a little and will help get the sauce to stick to the salmon heads!
Let it all cook at medium high heat for about 30 seconds, then it’s ready to serve!
I just garnished them with some green onions I still had in the refrigerator.
The salmon head was delicious. The meat is very tender and rich, full of Omega-3 fish oils and collagen! I think the fish head is just enough to feed 2 people, 1 half of the head for each person if you have other side dishes. If the fish head is the only thing you will be eating as main dish + rice, I think the meat in it (one whole fish head) is just enough for one person. If you are cooking for a bigger family, you should serve it as an extra dish but not really as a main dish, or you can buy more than one fish head: everybody can enjoy some salmon and get some nutrition, but you only spent like P120 per kilo instead of P600+ per kilo!
The salmon head parts that are most popular with fish head eaters are: the cheeks (most tender parts of the fish!), some people like to eat the eyes, and I like the meat on the fish head above the eyes, the meat on top of what we can consider the fish’s forehead to the nape (batok).
Hope this post has helped to convince you to try cooking salmon head at home!
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