Sustainable seafood: steamed salmon head, groper head soup

This post will consist of a brief showcase of fish head eating. Fish heads; the only animal product other than free-range/organic eggs which I consume.

Why fish heads? And sustainable seafood?

I see fish heads as by products of the fish industry, and they are; after all, the fish weren’t harvested for their heads, but rather their fillets.

Sustainability is one of the main reasons why I’ve become ‘vegan’ and stopped with the whole meat deal. Eating a plant-based diet not only puts less strain on the environment, it also (in the process of) reduces animal cruelty practices associated with factory farming.

Farming cruelties such as the treatment of the poor hens being kept in tiny cages for their whole lives and sows (female pigs) and dairy cows in their never ending cycle of pregnancy and rearing of the young.

I still eat fish heads because my mum insist I still eat some ‘animal products’. Also, fish (especially oily) are plentiful sources of vital nutrients like omega-3 acids, fat soluble vitamins and proteins.

The last two nutrients are pretty easy to gather from plants, and so is the first (from walnuts, flax seeds oil, etc.). OILY FISH and nutritious plant sources are pretty much equally as expensive (or the plants may even be less).

Seaweed, walnuts, kale, etc. I always have black chia seeds and flax seeds readily in my cupboard.

Then there are also uber concentrated sources in supplements (plant ones i.e. flax oil pills) from which you can obtain essential nutrients from.

I guess my mum is just insistent on the ‘traditional way of eating’, even though she herself is a vegetarian.. (the irony)

Nevertheless, FISH HEADS are pretty yummy treats when cooked properly. But why fish heads? There are also other sustainable by products including fish fins…

(deep-fried salmon fins, often used in Japanese cuisine; a level up from fish heads in price; about $10 per kg)

fish roe…

(also a bit more expensive than the heads i.e. around $6.99 per kg)

It’s basically because of the higher cost, and I feel a bit disturbed about eating a million baby fish in one mouthful 😛

The fish industry used to grind up undersized fish (notice how perfectly sized the fishies behind glass shields of your local fisheries are every week) and fish scraps like heads then dump them back into the ocean. Nowadays, because the industry is running out of fish catch, they must minimize waste as much as possible by using the ground up fish mash to make products like crumbed fish fingers or surimi etc. Of course, there are only so many frozen fish products one can produce and sell (before passing best before date. What customer would eat 1 year old frozen crumbed fish? Unless they were made unaware of course). But in conclusion, it’s still much easier for the the industry to dump the leftover mass back into the ocean, so the industry is still totally wasteful.

Because they’re so tasty, I don’t mind having salmon heads every once in a while too.


Salmon heads; I used to soup them, but because I’d always scold the roof of my mouth due to eating too fast (a habit I really need to fix i.e. and resulting in chronic acid reflux!) I’ve lately resorted to the good old steaming. No hot soup to peel your mouth skin (on the plentiful benefits of steaming for cooking other foods; As mentioned in that post, I’ve had a week of crazy, every meal steaming. I’ve stopped recently to let my steamer rest from it’s slave-like duties.

Be sure to wash fish heads before cooking them… (not like they’re super contaminated or anything)

Aug 22

3 salmon heads usually cost me about $3.40-ish (what a deal!) and look at the amount of meat I get out of a head! (on a good day)

Aug 22

Fish head soup – Thai style (ginger, lemongrass, chili) It was a cold day and I felt like a nice hot soup (making sure I won’t scoff it down and burn my tongue again!)

Super easy; all I did was take out an individual salmon head, boil it in a small pot with water, and I get this soup that has a similar consistency to a pork bone soup.

In South Asian (Indian) and even French cuisine, fish heads are often used for making soup stocks!


I just basically used a small pot like this one. This time was salmon with leek soup. Be sure to have a small plate ready for bones! fish head eating tips here: and


When the heads have been cooked long enough (i.e. 30 minutes) most of the bones will become edible. This piece is from around the salmon’s cheeks. Nice and chewy! (and added calcium)


Underneath was the cheek flesh. Considered by Chinese people as the most delicious part of the fish.


Last weekend I tried groper head for the first time (basically the whole fish, missing the fillet and innards)


Don’t worry, it was long dead (hopefully not too long though, for optimum freshness). The groper head was basically a lucky strike; my mum and I were buying grocery, passed by the fish and chips shop (Chinese owners) and found the skinny groper (as in it has no fillet left; just head and tail!). The head came in at around $3.50.


Looking less scary once cooked. Despite having experimented with quite a few fish heads i.e. snapper, blue cod, salmon, the groper head still crept me out! Mostly because the head came with the whole package (full body) and I felt slightly sad eating it… (that’s why most people refuse fish heads on their dish, but will happily eat the fillets!)


I made groper head ‘Tom-Yum’ soup. Tom-yum (Thai) would normally use pork or chicken bone for its soup base, but I used fish head instead.

Following my sustainability principles, I could have used animal bones… But I would feel weird about eating pork/chicken tasting soup after so long without eating these kinds of meats.


There were quite some hunks of fillet still left on the bone (the leftover flesh you see at fishery shops, when they slice fillets for you from the fish) so that was some affordable protein for me! But what I love most about eating fish heads is the ‘soft bits’ i.e. the yummy skin, lip parts, etc. Pictured above was the fleshy part from around the groper’s tongue. Yum. It’s just kind of jelly-like and fatty-ish.

(Picture from internet) Poor groper. I honestly felt so bad when I was cooking it that I didn’t want to eat anymore fish heads. People don’t often feel as bad for fish, but you all should watch Finding Nemo! My mum actually stopped eating fish after watching that movie (amongst other factors of course) Watch this scene from the movie when a large school of fish managed to escape from being caught by a fishing vessel.

You may not have known this, but most fish actually have the intelligence of a four year old. Just kidding, don’t ever quote me on that. In honest truth, I’ve no idea how intelligent fish really are. My own personal belief is that all living things doesn’t deserve suffering; no matter what level of intelligence.

I know vegans/vegetarians often use comparisons of popular pets/farm animals’ intelligence as an argument against meat eating i.e. pigs have the intelligence equivalent to those of a 4 year old human, while dogs to 3 year olds

But in conclusion, I feel fish deserve some sympathy too. And fish fillets (apart from something like salmon) aren’t even tasty anyway! I never really liked fish unless it was deep fried (obviously I abstained from the whole deep-fried scene some time ago). I have only eaten fish because they were considered very ‘nutritious’ and a ‘brain food’.

Anyway, with this post, I’d like to convert anyone out there (who is still unable to give up fish completely i.e. me and my salmon head addiction) to go for fish by products instead of fillets.


Meanwhile, my mum has just been cooking up some salmon heads tom-yum. Yum!

12 thoughts on “Sustainable seafood: steamed salmon head, groper head soup”

    1. Yep, I’m gonna become the next sustainable food source advocate. Thanks for visiting the blog anyway! Have you heard of this guy called Jackson landers? He’s a hunter and invasive species consumption advocate. He’s doing in good thing for local ecosystem but his approach is slightly inhumane 🙁

      1. No, I haven’t heard of Jackson Landers. I’ll have to check him out. Invasive species consumption advocate – I suppose that’s better than raising animals on factory farms! Celeste 🙂

        1. Better than caged and miserable for their whole lives I suppose. How’s the factory farming situation in the state’s anyway? As in what’s the percentage of meat produced from factory farms over there? I’ve always thought ours is quite bad… most of the chicken is probably factory farmed, and lots of caged eggs here.

  1. Factory farming here is the norm. I’ve read that 99 percent of the meat Americans eat comes from factory farms. That sounds high to me, but that’s what I’ve read. I recently read the book, “Meatonomics”, that talks a lot about how big business has pushed the little farmers out. Pretty sad for everyone! Hope you’re having a great week!! Celeste 🙂

    1. Wow. That’s so horrible! 🙁 In NZ beef is pretty much still free range, not sure about pork, and our free range industry is still pretty big. I suppose it’s mostly because of our love for the all natural image. It’s slowly changing though, not because our population is growing; but our export in meat is dramatically increasing. You don’t want to know about the Australian and new Zealand live exports 🙁 so disturbing. Hope you’re having a less busy week after the house moving too. I’m currently pretty dang busy with exams! No time to blog!

      1. I’m glad to hear that factory farming hasn’t completely taken over in NZ. Part of the reason that it’s so bad in the states is that the government provides subsides that help big meat and dairy industries. The whole system is crazy! I’ll be writing a post about this soon. Good luck with your exams – I remember those days!! Celeste 🙂

        1. I don’t think NZ will stay factory free very long though, unfortunately. The whole large corps buy up of smaller farms is starting to happening, and we have one of the world’s largest dairy group. It’s because we have this weird relationship with China (I.e. export) that’s makingtmaking things worse! Our government is probably going to start an intense supportive program soon. I’m actually studying for a US standardized test, hhoping to move over there for studies 🙂

  2. I hate the cold too!!! I lived in Vermont for a year and it was not the best year of my life, to say the least! I hope you get to California, but there’s lots of other warm states that are not as expensive to live in like Arizona and Nevada. Good luck with your move – how exciting! Celeste 🙂

    1. Oh right, I never considered the varying cost of living in different states over there! The US is such a huge country, there must be a whole load of variety of culture in each distinct areas! Yeah, even in nz, different cities can have food price difference of up to two three dollars. I’d love to visit California one day!

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