Curry Fish Head from Singapore

Curry Fish Head from Singapore

Guest PostYessss, I get to be lazy and stuff my face with cookies. Jonathan is back again with a guest post. This was from his recent trip in Singapore. Mmmm… curry fish head…

Three words: Curry Fish Head. It is a dish that is as flirtatious in name as it is seductive in taste. I think that its playful yet straightforward name is part of what makes the aforementioned dish both a local favorite as well as a tourist attraction.

I made my way down to Little India, east of the Singapore River. Fittingly, the streets were bathed in bright neon for Deepavali (the “festival of lights”). People filled the street and a few shop owners had come out to “welcome” customers into their restaurants. I walked into Banana Leaf Apolo, which was bustling with people. The restaurant was set up in communal tables and the room seemed as if in constant motion. After sitting, I quickly looked over the menu but decided better to take a stroll in front of the counter to get a better look at the food. I decided on a squid curry, a spicy Sri Lankan crab and of course, the fish head curry.

The table setting was simple – a fork, a spoon, and a banana leaf that served as both a placemat and plate. Really, even the fork and spoon seem superfluous as most people used their hands, but I suppose they provide a fork and spoon for those of us more coy about eating with our hands. Seeing as I already eat almost entirely with my hands whether it be appropriate or not, I dispensed the fork fairly quickly.

At the table were some crisp papadums, which I snacked on while waiting for the food. They were lightly salted and tasted faintly of chickpea. Soon after I had ordered, a woman circulating around the restaurant scooped out a large portion of rice onto my banana leaf along with some vegetables. As I started to eat, it wasn’t long before the dishes started to arrive. The service was friendly, but felt a bit rushed. And while the service was fast, some things were either easily forgotten or overlooked (they never brought the naan I had ordered).

The curry fish head came in a dauntingly large bowl. The head itself had a substantial amount of meat at its base, which was moist but had retained its texture. The curry was a spicy brew with a surprising hint of sour from the tamarind.

The squid curry was more familiar, but just as satisfying. The squids were buttery and the curry was a yellow, warming savory sauce. It was the crab, which was a true test of my mettle. I had yet to be defeated by a dish, and the crab is as close as I have ever been. This blackened heaping tangle of arthropod appendages was one of the spiciest dishes I’ve ever had. It was a deceptive peppery heat, which crept up, hit hard, but fortunately left with the same swiftness. I struggled to justify the pain (both shelling of the crab and burning of my lips) for such small amounts of meat.

I left Banana Leaf Apolo full and my hands smelling of curry. They may have been burning, but my lips were still smiling.

Posted by Danny on October 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm

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