Fish head curry was first invented in an Indian restaurant in Singapore by a chef who wanted to please the Chinese customers who visited frequently. The dish mixes South Indian and Chinese influences through the spices that are integral in cooking South Indian curries, vegetables such as okra, potatoes, and eggplant with the full head of a red snapper, considered a delicacy in China. Expect to find slight variations on the curry that can now be found across Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Peranakan restaurants in terms of spices used and vegetables. The one thing you can count on is that a fish head, eyes and all, will be bobbing in the still-steaming claypot when it arrives at your table.
Restaurant, Indian, Vegetarian, $$$
Muthu’s Curry has two locations, the newer, stylish Dempsey branch and their original Race Course Road branch that opened in 1969. One of Singapore’s most famous restaurants for the dish, they serve their succulently spiced food on banana leaves with sides of basmati rice and papadums.
This is another Southern Indian restaurant — one of the oldest in the area — that you’ll find in the trendy neighborhood of Dempsey Hill. Many locals will point to Samy’s Curry as the without a doubt best place to get fish head curry on the island. Samy’s Curry is characterized by their thick curry with a level of spiciness that will leave even the most ardent spice lovers grabbing at glasses of water. Luckily, the restaurant offers a free flow of sides including vegetables and rice, which can help to alleviate the spiciness.
The first location of Ocean Curry Fish Head is a bit of a trek into the heartlands located out at Bedok North, so CBD workers rejoiced when they recently opened a location at Telok Ayer. Ocean Curry serves up the dish in a sour-spicy curry accompanied by a medley of pineapple, okra, and eggplants. Expect to find long queues of office workers patiently waiting for their steaming hot, deadly spicy claypot bowls of the dish.
Located on Race Course Road, it shares an address with some of the best and oldest Indian restaurants in the city-state. The Banana Leaf Apolo has been open since the 1970s and many locals have been eating curry from here their whole lives. Additionally, unlike most Indian restaurants, they offer both North and South Indian food, which means you can get your perfectly moist tandoori chicken and spicy mutton curry but also dosai and idlis to go along with your fish head curry. This is another location that offers free flow rice and vegetables served in banana leaves to enjoy alongside your curries.
Now it may seem a bit bizarre to travel all the way northwest to Upper Bukit Timah road when you can get the same food in Little India, but you should know that Singaporeans are serious about their food and that means they are willing to travel for it, and have been making the trek up here for the last two decades. Karu’s is famous for serving the most flavorful, and yet a more reasonably spicy version of the dish. This is ideal for those who either don’t understand the appeal of the dish or have a preference for not eating something that sets all of your insides on fire. Karu’s is also recognized for having above-average fish in that they are much meatier than some other establishments