Fish Head and Clam Chowder By Chef Peter Gordon

This soup is based on a soup we’d often eat when I
was a child – although what Dad made was much
simpler and certainly didn’t have miso or shiitake
mushrooms in it. Our food was very simple but my
Māori heritage meant I was born to love fish heads. In
Māori culinary culture they’re often thought of as the
best part, reserved for chiefs. In Western culture they
and the frames are thought of as a by-product to the
chosen cut – the fillet. In my cooking class ‘Kai Moana’ (seafood) I teach people
how to eat the whole fish from head to tail, including this
recipe. I also teach it to communities living with food
poverty (albeit I often make it simpler and less expensive)
and we work with our great friends at Papatūānuku Kōkiri
Marae in Mangere East and the Kai Ika Project – who have
saved hundreds of tonnes of heads and frames from
ending up in landfill or on the ocean floor and instead
been gifted to their community – feeding people with
little cost.


  • 1.5 – 2kg fish heads, gills removed, rinsed of any blood
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • ½ stick celery, thinly sliced, leaves also
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400ml coconut milk (look for Pacific Island produced)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup Urban Hippie miso paste (NZ made in Nelson)
  • 300-400g kumara (native NZ sweet potato), scrubbed and diced
  • ½ cup brown rice (pre-boil 12 minutes to speed cooking)
  • 18 assorted wild harvested clams or mussels
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced including stalk (if using dried, soakin hot water 20 minutes and add water to soup)
  • 1 stalk silverbeet (Swiss Chard), thinly shredded stalk and leaf
  • ½ corn cob blackened in hot pan or on BBQ – cut the kernels off


  1. Fill a pot that will comfortably hold the fish heads with 3
    litres water and bring to a boil with 2 tsp sea salt

  2. Add the fish heads onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay
    leaves. Make sure the heads are submerged. Bring back to
    a boil then reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook until the
    heads are done. Smaller snapper heads will cook in 6-7
    minutes, larger ones like monkfish or cod could take up to
    15-20. A fish head is actually fairly hollow so they cook
    quicker than you think – you want them cooked enough
    that the flesh is white and easy to remove from the

  3. Carefully remove the heads and bones using two tongs
    or a slotted spoon and sit on a tray, then when cool
    enough to handle pick the flesh from the bonesCarefully remove the heads and bones using two tongs
    or a slotted spoon and sit on a tray, then when cool
    enough to handle pick the flesh from the bones

  4. Bring the stock back to a boil and add the coconut milk,
    smoked paprika, miso, kumara and pre-cooked rice.
    Reduce heat and gently boil 20 minutes until both rice and
    kumara are cooked

  5. Add the clams, shiitake, silverbeet and corn and cook 3 -
    5 minutes more until all clams have opened

  6. Taste for seasoning

  7. Place fish flesh in each bowl then ladle the broth on top

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