Introduction to Fish Head Curry
Singapore's culinary landscape is renowned for its diversity, which offers a wide range of dishes from various cultures that cater to the palates of foodies all over the world. Among the multitude of delectable dishes, Fish Head Curry stands out as one of the most beloved and sought-after dishes amongst many Singaporeans.
As a close rival to the ever-popular Chilli Crab, Fish Head Curry offers a unique taste experience that captures the essence of Singaporean cuisine. The dish's distinctive flavour comes from the use of fish heads as the main ingredient, resulting in a deep, rich, and savoury umami taste that is unparalleled in other seafood dishes. Whether you're a seasoned foodie or a first-time visitor to Singapore, Fish Head Curry is a must-try dish that will leave you wanting more.
History of Fish Head Curry
The Indians, Malays, and Chinese all have their own versions of Fish Head Curry, but how did it actually start to come about in Sunny Singapore? According to visitsingapore, Fish head curry was “invented” in the kitchen of a small Indian restaurant by Southern Indian owner M.J. Gomez in the 1940s. This dish was concocted as a means to please Mr. Gomez’s Chinese customers, as a Red Snapper Fish’s head, a commonly used ingredient in Chinese cuisine, was being incorporated into a classic Indian curry.
Cooking Fish Head Curry is a long and arduous process, but rewarding once it is completed. Restaurant kitchens usually start early in the morning, picking fresh Red Snapper or Sea Bream with clear eyes and red gills. Once cleaned and sprinkled with salt and turmeric to eliminate the strong fish odour, the fish heads are steamed before it is combined in a pot of simmering curry full of spices. After around ten minutes, the fish head curry is fully cooked and can be garnished with fresh pineapple, spring onions, chilli and served with plain white rice.
If you're new to the world of Fish Head Curry, you may be wondering why this dish specifically uses the head of the fish. To simply put it, the Head of the fish consists of many hidden flavour profiles that you might not get from eating the usual body of the fish.
Take the eyeballs of the fish for example, which may seem unappetizing to some. When cooked in a curry, fish eyes have a unique texture that is smooth and gelatinous, while also offering a tangy and briny taste that is unlike any other seafood dish. These complex and unique gastronomic experiences can only be found in the ever-unique Fish Head Curry, making it a beloved dish among foodies and locals alike.
Fish Head Curry has also become a beloved dish in both Peranakan and Southern Indian kitchens, showcasing the unique and diverse flavours of these two cultures. While both cuisines have their own versions of the dish, they each incorporate their own distinct flairs during the curry brewing stage.
In Peranakan traditions, an essential ingredient in the curry is Assam or Tamarind essence, which gives the dish its signature tangy flavour. On the other hand, the Southern Indian preparation of the curry includes a generous amount of coconut milk, giving the dish a creamy and indulgent texture.
Top 10 Fish Head Curry Restaurants in Singapore
Don’t know which variation of Fish Head Curry you will like? Don’t worry! To help you navigate the myriad of options, we have compiled a list of the top ten best fish head curries in Singapore for you to delve into. Our list starts off with a few restaurants serving classic style Fish Head Curries, followed by a couple of Halal-certified restaurants and it ends off with eateries that have their own distinct styles. However, feel free to jump to the respective sub-sections to find the best restaurant for your specific Fish Head Curry cravings!
1. Yu Cun Fish Head Curry
Credit: Miss Tam Chiak
Address: 147 Upper Paya Lebar Rd, Singapore 534849
Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm daily
Tel: 6286 0491
Located at Upper Paya Lebar Road, at Yu Cun Fish Head Curry, you can choose the spice level of your fish head curry to suit your spice tolerance. Although the restaurant is mainly known as an award-winning Tze Char restaurant, their signature dish is their Fish Head Curry. Priced at $24 for small portions and $26 for big portions, the dish is cooked using Sea Bream unlike the typical Red Snapper in a clay pot with a variety of spices.
2. Muthus Curry
Credit: Daniel Food Diary
Address: 138 Race Course Rd, #01-01, Singapore 218591
Opening Hours: 10.30am to 10.30pm daily
Tel: 6392 1722
Established almost 50 years ago now, Muthu's Curry is a well-known Indian restaurant in Singapore known by many locals. While they are famous for their biryani and tandoori dishes, their fish head curry is also a standout menu item. Their kitchen rotationally uses Sea Bream, Sea Bass and Red Snapper in their Fish Head Curries and the portions are priced accordingly at $24/$28/$33.
3. Samy's Curry Restaurant
Address: 25 Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249670
Opening Hours: 11am-3pm and 6pm-10pm daily
Tel: 6472 2080
Established in the 1960s, Samy’s Curry Restaurant is now regarded as one of the best and oldest Indian Restaurants in Singapore. Their signature and most popular dish that is their Fish Head Curry, has accredited them multiple impressive accolades. Strict on preserving tradition, they only use Red Snapper for their Fish Head Curry and cook using a variety of spices such as turmeric, tamarind and fennel to name a few. Their portions are priced accordingly at $21/$28/$33.
4. NaNa Curry
Credit: Miss Tak Chiam
Address, Opening Hours & Tel. Numbers:
Bukit Merah: Blk 115 Bukit Merah View, #01-47 Singapore 151115 | Opening Hours: 11am to 7pm (Closed every Sunday) | Tel: 9106 4316
Jurong East: Blk 303 Jurong East Street 32 #01-98 (Kimly Coffeeshop) Singapore 600303 | Opening Hours: Mon: 11am to 3pm, Tues to Sun: 11am to 7pm | Tel: 9776 3240
Bedok: Blk 205 Bedok North Street 1 Kopitiam Singapore 460205 | Opening Hours: Mon to Sun: 10am to 9pm | Tel: 9844 6169
Dover Crescent: 19A Dover Crescent #01-05 Singapore 131019 | Opening Hours: Tue to Sun: 11am to 7pm (Closed every Monday) | Tel: 9296 0454
Awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand Award for 5 years in a row from 2016-2020, NaNa Curry’s Fish Head Curry is the one to go for if you're looking for spiciness! With four outlets opened across Singapore, you’ll be able to get your Fish Head Curry at any point in the island. Their Fish Head Curry is complete with Tau Pok and vegetables such as Lady Finger and even Yam. Their portions are priced at $35 for the whole fish head, and $25 for half.
5. West Coz Cafe
Address: 154 West Coast Road #02-23 West Coast Plaza, 127371, Singapore
Opening Hours: 11:30 am - 9:30pm daily
Tel: 6779 1303
Located at West Coast Plaza, this Halal-certified establishment serves up a delicious Fish Head Curry with more coconut milk, as shown from the lightly coloured curry in the picture. It features Tau Pok as well and vegetables such as long beans. Their menu also offers Assam Fish Head, a version you can order instead if you’re looking for a more sour and tangy Peranakan style fish head curry. Both the Fish Head Curry and Assam Fish Head are priced at $28.
6. The Banana Leaf Apolo
Credit: Hungry Onion
Address: 54 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218564
Opening Hours: 10:30 am - 10:30pm daily
Tel: 6293 8682
The Banana Leaf Apolo is another halal eatery serving tangy fish head curry that is perfect for those who enjoy a bit of zest in their food. The curry here is incorporated with pineapple chunks and tomatoes, resulting in an appetising and flavorful dish that is popular among locals. Their portions are priced at small for $30.50, medium for $35.90 and large for $40.50.
7. Pavilion Banana Leaf
Address: 3 Gateway Drive, Westgate Mall #02-28 , Singapore 608532
Opening Hours: 11.30am - 4pm, 5pm-9.30pm
Tel: 6270 3866
Banana Leaf Apolo is a halal certified restaurant that specialises in South Indian Chettinad cuisine. Their dishes use century-old, traditional and authentic South Indian recipes that have been tweaked to suit local taste buds. Their Fish Head Curry, which is served in an earthen clay pot, is fresh and meaty, and is cooked in a mildly spicy curry base that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Their portions are priced at half for $30.90.
Spots for Variations of Fish Head Curries
8. Ocean Curry Fish Head
Address: Blk 92 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh #01-264 Singapore 310092
Opening Hours: Daily 11am - 9pm, Closes on every alternate Tuesday
Tel: 6252 2168
If you're looking to taste an authentic Peranakan-style Fish Head Curry, Ocean Curry Fish Head is the place to be. This establishment only uses Peranakan ingredients and cooking styles to preserve and maintain traditional tastes. Located at Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, you can order their Assam-style fish head curry at half a portion for $30 or the full portion at $40.
9. Canton Delicacies
Credit: Today Online
Address: Block 69 Geylang Bahru, #01-27, Geylang Bahru Market & Food Centre, Singapore 330069
Opening hours: Fri-Wed 11:30am to 9pm
Tel: 8459 0031
If you're a fan of Cantonese dishes such as Soya Sauce Chicken Rice, you'll love the Fish Head Curry at Canton Delicacies. Ran by an ex-Marriot Hotel chef, you’ll be sure to experience no-other than perfection when you order their Fish Head Curry. The portion is priced at $21 and features a generous servings of Red Snapper, Eggplants and Taupok.
Address: 21 Binjai Park, Singapore 589827
Opening Hours: Daily 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm, Closed on Wednesdays
Tel: 6468 3060
Ivins is another restaurant serving up a delicious Peranakan-style Fish Head Curry, instead, along the downtown area at Binjai Park. The fish used in the curry is slowly cooked to perfection, so much so that it falls apart easily, making every bite a delight. The dish,priced at $27, is garnished with fried onion bits and green chillies, giving it a delightful crunch and a little kick of spice.
Overall, these ten fish head curry places offer a wide variety of flavours and styles, making them perfect for both locals and tourists looking to sample the best of Singapore's culinary scene. Whether you prefer a tangy and spicy curry or a rich and creamy one, there is always something for everyone at these eateries.
Ways to eat Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry is a popular and beloved dish in many cultures, known for its rich and flavorful gravy and tender pieces of fish head. While traditionally served with rice, there are many other ways to enjoy this dish.
Similar to rice, bread provides a perfect, plain base for rich and flavourful gravies such as Fish Head Curry. Roti prata, naan, and plain white bread are some of the common breads used to eat Fish Head Curry.
Credit: Mashed and Stay at Home Mum
To enjoy the dish with bread, tear off a small piece of bread and use it to scoop up some curry and fish meat. The bread helps to absorb every last drop of the tangy and savoury curry making each bite a delightful explosion of taste. The crispy texture of roti prata and naan adds an interesting contrast to the soft and tender fish meat. Plain white bread is an excellent choice for those who prefer a neutral taste, allowing the curry to take centre stage.
Papadums are a crispy “chip” that is typically served alongside Indian meals, especially with curries and biryani rice. It is made from deep-frying a dough of black gram flour and its size comes slightly smaller than an average plate. When paired with fish head curry, it adds a satisfying crunch and a slightly nutty flavour that complements the sharp flavours of the curry.
To enjoy fish head curry with papadams, first, take a piece of the papadam and break it into small pieces with your hands. Next, use the pieces to scoop up some of the curry just like how you would use a spoon, making sure to get a piece of fish head and some of the flavorful gravy. The crispy texture of the papadam will provide a nice contrast to the soft and tender fish head meat, and the flavours will come together in a delightful burst of taste and texture.
3. Vegetable Side Dishes
If you’re planning to order Fish Head Curries from any of the restaurants listed above, make sure to order vegetables side dishes as well for a more hearty and balanced meal. Some Indian vegetable side dishes that can also go well with Fish Head Curry are Aloo Gobi (Stir fried potatoes and cauliflower), Daal (Pureed lentil soup) and Vegetable Masala.
Credit: Vegan Huggs and Cook Eat World
Not only do these side dishes provide your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients, they also add some crunch and texture to your meal, aside from your basic Fish Head Curry and Rice.
Fish Head Curry is a great introduction to Singapore’s diverse and tasty cuisine. It is a dish that can easily be complemented with bread such as roti, prata, naan, plain white bread, Papadam and vegetable side dishes. Here are 10 different Fish Head Curry spots to try from, split into 3 categories.
2. Muthus Curry
4. NaNa Curry
Spots for Variations of Fish Head Curries:
As a Singaporean myself, Fish Head Curry has always been a beloved dish in my household. I have fond memories of my parents frequenting a new Indian Muslim food stall in our neighbourhood that served up a delicious version of the dish, which we often brought home to enjoy.
Despite being a small family, we always managed to polish off the large bowl in a single day. Fish Head Curry has proven to be versatile enough for us to enjoy at any mealtime. For breakfast or lunch, we would serve ourselves a small portion with plain white bread and come dinnertime, I would assist my mother in the kitchen as we prepared various side dishes, such as omelettes, stir-fried spinach, and plain white rice to enjoy with the remainder of the Fish Head Curry we had purchased earlier that day.
Food has always been a great way to connect with different cultures and for a country like Singapore, it is no exception. Food is not just a means of sustenance in Singapore, it's a way of life.
The history and story behind the invention of Fish Head Curry is an act of cultural adaptation that both reflects racial harmony and exceptional hospitality that Singapore is known for. Fish Head Curry is a testament to Singapore’s ability to embrace and celebrate diversity, making it a dish that is not only rooted in spice and flavour, but also cultural meaning.
Want to know more?
Interested to try more than just Fish Head Curry? Join us at our Singapore Street Food & Night Tour or our Michelin & Local Hawker Food Tour to truly get the ultimate Singaporean gastronomical adventure! With our food tours, you’ll be able to experience dishes special to the multi-cultural community (Chinese, Malay, Indian & Peranakan) as well as enjoy an authentic UNESCO hawker culture dining experience exclusive to Singapore. We look forward to having you on board!