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)
(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. http://www.oprah.com/health/Eating-Too-Fast-A-Possible-Cause-for-Weight-Gain 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; http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/steamer-skinny-girls-best-friend/) 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)
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)
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: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/3-uber-simple-and-delicious-ways-to-eat-fish-head-with-recipe-eating-tips-and-nutritional-analysis/ and http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/fish-head-eating-tips/
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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulucJnxT7B4 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.
Remember; FISH ARE FRIENDS, NOT FOOD.
Meanwhile, my mum has just been cooking up some salmon heads tom-yum. Yum!