Our family cook lived in our family house in Ipoh, Malaysia from around the 1930s (I think) to the 2000s before most of the family had passed away and she retired. She was more family than some family.
She cooked on old charcoal stoves (on an old Chinese range cooker) her whole life threatening to leave if gas or electric was installed.
Every dish she cooked was delicious. Two fish dishes stand out. A steamed pomfret with light soy topped with spring onions and steamed with ginger slices. A fish head curry.
This led to a story I was told in childhood, quite likely fictional with a touch of truth, about how the elite used to eat in ancient China.
There used to be a fair number of kidnappings in ancient China. To mitigate against this, the elite used to use servants as decoys. The kidnappers would demand ransoms but there would be no point unless it was genuine aristocracy caught.
The way to determine this was to serve them food. Specifically a whole fish.
Supposedly, the aristocrats would only eat the cheeks of a fish whereas the servants would happily tuck into the body of the fish.
The child-me to ask why the nobles wouldn’t pretend and deign to eat the fish body and was never given a satisfactory answer.
But the truth of the story stems from the highly stratified society of ancient China. Where there were food restrictions to the nobility (partly enshrined in law and partly from economic restrictions). Records show that wars between vassal states were triggered when during feasts where improper meat was served to aristocrats who felt insulted and looked for a chance to avenge themselves.
Still, while fish cheeks and parts like prawn heads are regularly discarded, they are delicious, good sources of nutrients and with some great textual character to them. It’s a waste not to eat them.
So finding a source of yellow tail fish cheek / collar at the new Ichiba Japanese supermarket in Westfield, West London has been a good find for me recently. It’s a favourite and it always seems to be on a sale price!
Plain grill with salt, I take mine medium rare and a splash of yuzu juice (or lemon) and, or soya sauce. Yum.