Recipe: Braised Fish Head with Bitter Gourd (苦瓜鱼头)

Bitter gourd might not be a favourite of many due to the bitterness of this gourd. I used to shun it till I found out how much nutrients it contains; and it is also low in calories!! However, if you are already a bitter gourd lover, then you are in for a treat!! First, the fish is fried to seal in the juiciness of the meat. Then it is braised with loads of garlic, ginger, red onions and black fermented bean sauce, and lastly topped with spring onions and red chillies.

I always had the notion that cooking this dish is very difficult, but once I changed my mindset and attempted it, I overcomed my own fear. At this point, I won’t say is an “easy peasy” dish but a manageable dish to conquer if you want to. I can only describe this dish by simply saying it in Chinese, “HAO CHI”! (好吃!); which means tasty or palatable.

I hope you like this dish as much as we do! Give us some comments or feedback via our blog. Like and follow us on Beyond Norm’s Facebook Page and subscribe to our blog. Follow us on Instagram (@TheRealBeyondNorm) and YouTube (@BeyondNormEats), to get the latest exciting updates and videos.  We would also like to welcome you to join our Mummy’s Kitchen Facebook Group for food lovers like you, whether newbie or veteran.

Can you smell the aroma that is exuding from the pot of braised fish head? It is making me hungry now!


Serves 5 to 6 persons


1.2kg black Garoupa fish head (or red snapper)

1 large bitter gourd, cut into pieces

Oil for deep frying

2 red onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, smashed

40g ginger, sliced

4 tablespoons fermented black beans

3 red chillies, deseeded and sliced

5 stalks spring onion

2 cups water

1½ tablespoon light soya sauce

1½ tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon dark soya sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

5 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

1½ tablespoons brown sugar

Dashes of white pepper

5–6 tablespoons oil

120g potato flour

Marinade for fish head:

½ teaspoon salt

Dashes of white pepper

4 tablespoons ginger juice

2 egg white


Preparation of the Fish Head:

  1. Cut the fish head into medium-sized pieces (my fishmonger cut it for me)
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and rub it all over the fish pieces.
  3. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Then rinse off with water and remove all the blood and impurities.
  5. Drain and marinate the fish head pieces for at least 30 minutes or longer.
  6. Heat up the oil for deep frying.
  7. Lightly coat the marinated fish head slices with potato flour.
  8. Shake off the excess flour.
  9. In batches, place the fish pieces into the oil and fry till golden brown.
  10. Drain and set aside.

Preparation of the Spring Onion:

  1. Cut the white part of the spring onions into small pieces and cut the green parts into 2 inches in length. Set aside.

Preparation of the Bitter Gourd:

  1. Cut the bitter gourd into half, lengthwise.
  2. Scrap off the seeds by using a metal spoon.
  3. Cut the bitter gourd into slices.
  4. Rub all the pieces with 1 tablespoons of salt for about 10 minutes.
  5. Then rinse and drain and set aside.

Final preparation of the dish:

  1. Heat up the 5 tablespoons of oil.
  2. Add in the ginger, garlic, white part of the spring onion and red onions. Fry till fragrant.
  3. Add in the fermented black beans and stir for another minute.
  4. Add in the light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add in the bitter gourd and ensure that they are well coated with the sauce.
  6. Add in the water and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, cover with a lid.
  7. Now add in the pieces of fried fish head.
  8. Give it a mix or two before glazing it with 4 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine.
  9. Cover and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the bitter gourd is cooked through.
  10. Next add the spring onions and sliced red chillies. Mix well.
  11. Cover and let the dish rest for 2 minutes before serving.
  12. Dish and pour 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and serve with steamed rice.


If you want the dish to be spicy, add the chillies in Step 20 and use bird eye chillies instead of the big red chillies.

Mummy's Kitchen

Hi! My name is Josephine Go. I blog at in a segment called Mummy’s Kitchen. I love to use fresh and natural ingredients in my cooking to promote healthy eating. Some of my recipes may not be in line with the traditional methods of cooking to the extent that some of the ingredients are different, but hopefully new recipes are being created in my style. I certainly hope that what I do will help guide kitchen first-timers on how to cook their first meal as well as further equip kitchen veterans with new recipes. My loving husband and two wonderful children are my best guinea pigs and critics. They have enjoyed (or endured) the food that has been served to them for all these years. Mind you, I did not know how to cook or ever knew that I could cook till I got married. So there is hope for everyone. If I can cook, you can cook. You will not know how good or talented you are until you put your hand in the plough.

5 thoughts on “Recipe: Braised Fish Head with Bitter Gourd (苦瓜鱼头)

  1. Thank you for sharing this…my grandson loves fish heads, in fact, he leaves very little on a fish or meat when he eats…lol..Typical Thai waste nothing!…lol…I have not cooked them as a dish though but I am sure it will be well received..

    1. You’re most welcome! You can try out the recipe and let us know if they enjoy it! 😀

      1. I will indeed …I was just telling my daughter inlaw but she didn’t understand everything I said so am going to show her the picture 🙂

  2. Patricia Lum says:

    One of my favourite fish dishes. I also add in prefried fu chook (bean curd) sticks and or tau fu poks, pending what is at hand. These are yums when they have absorbed the gravy. Thank you for sharing.😍

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