Let’s begin by taking a glance at the delicious end result! Here, I’ve made a veggie stir-fry, cooked very sustainably, using juices from last night’s dinner-steamed snapper head. The stir-fry consists of fresh ginger root slices, chili, Chinese leeks(?), brussel sprouts and mung beans. On the right of the plate are the snapper head fillets!
*Found out the Chinese leeks are actually the top of garlic bulbs! 蒜薹 suan tai they call them.
What a clever usage! Also very delicious; sweet and garlicky.
So, in my opinion ‘Snapper head’ is one of the trickier fish heads to cook with. Owing to its massive size(although you can also find smaller heads) they take longer to cook, have pretty creepy looking teeth, and unlike fatty fish like salmon or cods, have got annoying scales that can sometimes find their way into your throat.
Picture from: http://sriadiyanti.com/fish-head-curry/
Also, I’ve always felt disturbed looking at the heads! They look like they’re smiling at me! However, the amount of fish fillet that can be bought for such a small price while simultaneously allowing you to be environmentally sustainable, is doubtlessly rewarding. You’re paying the poor fish respect by eating its ‘leftover head’ rather than just eating the meat that it’s been fished for.
The snapper head I made last night was only $5.49 and I’ve had at least a fillets worth already. Pretty good deal! And there’s still at least a couple more servings of it left.
They can hopefully be bought from your local supermarket/fishery shop. Most of the time, they’re uber cheap because lots of people haven’t got the guts to cook them. Wimps. They don’t know they’re missing out on the best (i.e. most flavor filled) part of the fish.
PREPARING SNAPPER HEAD
There’s nothing hard about preparing a snapper head. All you need to do is take it out of the plastic bag and wash it thoroughly to get rid of the fishy smells.
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This is a bird’s eye view of the fish head. As you can see, there’s a whole lot of meat to harvest(see the lining of the inside of the head).
COOKING SNAPPER HEAD
You can cook snapper heads in many different ways, e.g oven baking, boiling in a soup, steaming. They can be cooked whole. So no need to butcher them up into pieces. I normally steam them because it’s much faster than oven baking. See my post on the wonders of steaming; http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/steamer-skinny-girls-best-friend/ Boiling them often results in scales being scattered throughout the soup.
You can basically season them with whatever you like. Most of the time, salt is not required because snapper heads still contain remnants of the seas saltiness, which soaks into their fillets as they’re being cooked(no need for any fancy sea salt!)
Here is an example of my easy snapper head recipe; ginger and chili Thai style snapper head http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/tag/easy-fish-head-recipe/ for more on snapper and other fish head recipes and eating tips.
For my newest snapper head recipe;
Ginger and chili snapper head recipe
1 large snapper head
4 Thai red chilis, chopped in half
1/2 cup of sliced ginger root
2 garlic bulb stems 蒜薹 suan tai or simply two spring onions, chopped into about 2.5 inch long pieces
Clean the snapper head. Line your steamer rack(that’s the word! I’ve been racking my brains for the name of this thing since the last post!) with foil or prepare a large plate for the snapper. Boil the water in the steamer on high heat. Arrange your seasoning on top of, and around the snapper head that you’ve placed onto the foil, or a plate in the steamer. Turn the heat onto medium-high then steam the fish head for about 15-20 minutes, then you’re done!
EATING SNAPPER HEAD
The easiest way to eat snapper head is to treat it like a ‘turkey’ or ‘roast chicken’. Slice or pick out the meaty bits with no bones.
Here’s a nice big piece of meat! The texture is just like chicken.
The meat is easy to find around the edge of the head.
Fortunately, usually there aren’t many bones to evade in the heads of snappers. Except for in the ‘tricky’ parts of the head.
The tricky parts (my favorites as they are the most flavor filled) are;
– The very inner part of the head. This contains some kind of ‘liver-looking’ piece of flesh. They usually come with tiny little micro-teeth which stick to your own teeth in a paradoxical way.
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Here is the ‘inner part’, being attacked by an army of peas and corn. Its taste is sweet, creamy and even the tendon-y parts are chewy in a good way. Although I could compare it to liver or liver pate, the flavor is much milder. You may be put off, however, by the hard, bony parts that will have to be spit out.
– The eyes
They aren’t hard to eat at all. All you need to be aware of is the white ‘eyeball’ thing in the middle(as pictured, captured between my chopsticks), I’m sure you can consume them, but I’m just not gutsy enough to try it just yet. Who knows, these spherical things may be the elixir of eternal youth. Packed with an abundance of antioxidants that we’re ignorant to. I highly doubt that.
However, I do know that fish eye balls contain a whole lot of good fats! They are the nutrient dense part of the fish which is too often wasted. And I quote with reference from this website, http://www.philcheung.com/Health/WSFD_e.htm, one of the ‘wasted treasures of food’.
The eyes are actually not bad tasting(especially when you are repeatedly reminding yourself of the nutritional value). I’d compare it to cream cheese; or a cross between a liver pate and a cheese dip. Try ‘fish eye dip’ to go with chips for your next party appetizer. I might actually try make a ‘fish eye dip’ then post it on the blog someday. Actually, the soft creaminess would mean it’d go really well with healthy crackers or breads.
I have definite reason to believe that snapper heads are a nutritious food (on the other hand, salmon heads would be SUPER nutritious with their abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. More on salmon heads here: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/fish-head-eating-tips/).
I may even go so far as to claim that fish heads in general, can be more nutritious than the fish fillet itself.
Fish are mainly priced for their high protein to low fat ratio, and the fact that they contain many vitamins, minerals i.e. phosphorus, selenium. But what’s most nutritious about fish is the type of FATS and FAT-SOLUBLE vitamins they contain. Obviously, these fats would be more concentrated in an oily fish like salmon, sardines than fish like dory, flounder, a McDonalds Mcfillet(or whatever Mc it is) although obviously the McDonalds fillet would be lusciously full of hydrogenated fats and cholesterol.
From my experience, fish heads generally house a concentrated amount of fish fat. For example, in snapper heads, a fish that isn’t considered oily, the head is packed full of fat and oil, while its fillet is bone dry. Fish fats are obviously mostly good for you(don’t ever be afraid of fish fat!) with about 10% max saturated.
THIS MEANS to obtain the fat-soluble vitamins that can be very hard to find in bone-dry non oily fish fillets like snapper, eating the oily fish heads is be the best way to go. Fat-soluble vitamins and minerals (can be found in moderate amounts in snapper) like A, C and calcium can only be effectively absorbed by our body through fats.
ALSO Non-oily fish contain about 1/3 of the amount of omega-3 acids in oily fish. By eating the fat rich heads of non-oily fish, we are squeezing out the maximum amount of omega-3 fats that can be found in the fish. Fish eyes are also very rich in these rare unsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA, credits to http://www.hybridrastamama.com/2012/10/yes-i-eat-fish-eyeballs.html.
The rule of thumb with fish eating for me is, the more fat, the better(quite the opposite with red meat and poultry). However, keep in mind that fatty fish should be consumed in moderate amounts, because although they’re the ‘good guy’ fats, fat is still fat. Something you should know ; 1 gram of fat is equal to 2 energy units, while 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate are equal to one. Their high energy-ness explains why fats are at the very top of the food pyramid.
And this nutritional analysis concludes my rant about snapper head 🙂 Please try these ‘wasted treasures of food’ yourselves and share your success stories with all of us!