There are several dishes one must try when in Singapore. Among them is the Fish Head Curry. They take the head of a really big fish, throw in some spices, coconut milk, veggies, and then simmer it all together. I was hesitant to try this until now given my dislike of strong fish flavor. Believe it or not, it supposed to be a uniquely Singaporean creation.
From the web:
Fish head curry was first concocted in a small restaurant in Tank Road about 30 years ago. The brainchild of an Indian man, Gomez, the head of the fish was used to suit local tastes. Fish head was not particularly an Indian delicacy. Understanding it to be a favourite with the Chinese, Gomez tried this dish to please his Chinese customers. Since then, the dish has become a hit in Singapore and across the causeway.
The curry used in the dish however, is based on the traditional South Indian fish curry recipe. The curry is a thick paste of rich spices coating fish pieces. Across the states, the ingredients differ although the basic method is preserved. In Kerala, in southwestern India, coconut milk is added to the gravy. The assam fish curry is a dry version of the Madras curry, as water is not added.
Fish head curry is served in both Indian and Chinese restaurants, often brought still bubbling away in a the large clay pot. In Indian restaurants, fresh banana leaves are laid before the diners and steaming rice is scooped onto them. The curry is then poured over the fragrant rice. Usually, the diners are also given crackers or papadam to complement their main course. Typically, other side dishes are also ordered. The first part of the fish head that is consumed is the flesh around the cheeks. Everything else fleshy is then removed, exposing the skull. The final and best part of this gastronomic ritual is the scooping of the eyes.
So, off we venture to a local place around the corner from our house to finally check it out. True to form, the dish arrived in a clay pot, bubbling away!, Floating just beneath the surface was our fish head. As we went to scoop him out, I was surprised to see he had teeth! Well, better I’m eating him then he’s eating me Paul suggested, and he was right. This was my kind of fish, although truly it was the curry that made my day. It was rich, spicy, and perfect over rice. I could had just that part and been very happy. Also the curry had pineapple slices in it, which made for a nice sweetness amongst all the spice.
You may have noticed the part about the Eyeball….it’s true, they eat the eyes. I was expecting a little sliver of fleshy bit, but no, our big fish had an eye socket, and inside as a marble sized orb of an eyeball. Eww. But Paul, being the foodie that he is, gave it a shot. I’m told it was good, but fishy, so I don’t think I missed anything.
Overall, a good experience, I thought this would be one dish I would really have trouble with since I don’t like fish that much, but it turned out to be quite tasty. Once again, Indian food has come thru for us.
UPDATE: The fish head we always go to is Ocean Fish Head Curry, 181 Telok Ayer St. It’s across from Amoy Food Centre and they always treat us right.