Sinigang na Ulo (Fish Head in Tamarind Broth)

You might be wondering why you see fish heads in Asian shops and why Asians buy them.

No it’s not for cats or any pets in that regard, it’s for human consumption. Though you might think you can’t get any meat out of it well you’re wrong as it packs a good amount of meat and it is also filled with Omega 3 packed fish fat which is prized by Asians. You might be also thinking why not buy the meaty part and the ones without bones, well they taste different it’s like comparing chicken thighs with chicken breasts. Due to its taste, texture and economic situation of Asia this ingredient is used commonly in Asian dishes like Chinese Fish Head Soup and Malaysian/Singaporean Fish Head Curry.

Philippines is no different that is why we have this dish called Fish Head sinigang, basically it’s a fish head cooked in a tamarind based broth. Any fish head can be used but usually we use larger types of fish so you get lots of meat from it. This dish might have started because of some ingenious reasons to feed poverty stricken families, it’s not the case these days as this dish is expensive when ordered in restaurants, I even remember there are restaurants that specializes only on this dish and there is always a massive ordering queue in the fast food court. While it might freak-out a lot of people this is definitely a tasty dish and if you love seafood this should not be missed out.

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Sinigang na Ulo (Fish Head in Tamarind Broth)

  • Author: Raymund
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Filipino


Philippines is no different that is why we have this dish called Sinigang na Ulo, basically it’s a fish head cooked in a tamarind based broth. Any fish head can be used but usually we use larger types of fish so you get lots of meat from it.



  • 3 large Hapuka heads (or any large fish)
  • 1 packet Tamarind Mix (Sinigang Mix)
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • fish sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 litre water


  1. In a pot onions and tomatoes then pour water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling add fish and tamarind mix, simmer for 5-10 minutes (or until cooked). If the fish head is too large you might need to cook each head individually and increase the time.
  3. Add mustard greens then simmer for 2 more minutes.
  4. Season with Fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper



21 Responses

  1. Nors says:

    Lupit ng camera mo idol!!!

  2. Kiran says:

    Fish head in tamarind broth?!? Enough said!

  3. starlight says:

    love it even more if it’s sinigang sa miso.. no more diet-diet if that’s what’s on the table..

  4. sounds delicious.

  5. Tessa says:

    Sounds delicious! I know a place in town that sell salmon heads for a little over a dollar apiece…What do you think of salmon in this dish?

  6. It’s funny because my wife was just talking about cooking this yesterday. Now I have a recipe to use. Thanks, Raymund!

  7. Fish heads are (or I should rather say were) consumed with relish in coastal areas of Spain until not so long ago. It still is one of my mom’s favorite things to have in this world. There are no specific recipes for them, though. Whenever we had fish, usually just grilled or pan fried, my mother would rather eat the heads we discarded instead of a whole piece of fish. She says they are juicier, more flavorful and packed with little fleshy pieces. I guess I would love the broth in this recipe, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to suck the heck out of a fish head. I have to man up! 🙂

  8. Eha says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe. Have had fish head soup on the Mediterranean coast of France and loved it ! Also remember the wonder of fish head curry at Banana Leaf Apollo shopfront restaurant in Singapore way back 🙂 !

    • rsmacaalay says:

      Interesting as I thought fish head is only consumed in Asia, I never knew this ingredient is being used as well in Mediterranean cuisine. Do you know whats the dish called as I am interested in making some of those

      • Eha says:

        Shall look up tomorrow afternoon! Promise!! :)!

      • Eha says:

        Can’t find the French cookery book I purchased in Marseilles, but we had fish heads in a thick bouillabaissy stock both in Cannes & Marseilles. Made a few phone calls: Basque country and the W side of Italy certainly have similar dishes [soup/stew], and I am told both Chile and Jamaica have famous fish head combos? Not experienced with those. Remember ‘tursapea supp’i [cod head soup] from my birth country of Estonia in NE Europe: heads slowly cooked with potatoes and dill in a fish stock and dressed with sour cream – all i can come up with 😀 !

        • rsmacaalay says:

          That might be a version of Bouillabaisse as some versions of it are traditional and rustic which calls for fish heads, whole shrimps and crabs. You’re making me hungry now

  9. Until I came to the US I didn’t know fish head was not desirable on the table. lol. Well, I actually didn’t even notice it’s THAT bad until I started to read some food blog posts and comments. I learned that I rarely see fish head or some “ugly” parts at the restaurant but it wasn’t a coincidence. 🙂 This soup fish in the tamarind broth must be wonderful~~! I’m happy I know how to appreciate the flavor. 🙂

  10. Although fish heads are not popular on the Australian menus, my Mum used to buy whole live fish and so I am used to fish stock (and jelly) made using the heads, tails, etc. I love the sour flavour of tamarind in this recipe.

  11. foodjaunts says:

    I love sinigang but never tried this version of it – looks interesting!

  12. i never did like head part of anything.. I have a friend who just love eating everything from eyes to whatever.. unbelievable..

  13. I remember my father (RIP) savoring fish heads cooked by my mom, the chef in the family. He devours them with gusto every bit of it, eyes, cheeks, and fleshy jaw meats; I used to say Ewwww everytime until I came to the States and start seeing them at the local fish vendor’s stalls. Now it is a favorite dish. Best cooked soupy style as in Sinigang… and they are not cheap fish parts anymore. Salmon head is the best…very high in Omega 3 fatty acids.

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