Originally created by Singapore’s Malayalee (an Indian ethnic group from the Southern Indian state of Kerala) community, it is prepared by stewing the head of an ikan merah (red snapper fish) in a spicy-hot curry with vegetables; with the sour-tasting tamarind flavour an unmistakable signature of this dish.
Visitors can either have it with rice or as the Chinese would sometimes do it - wipe the curry gravy clean with a soft bun. The sweetness of the dough helps to neutralize the spices in the curry - a great way to enjoy the dish even if you have a low tolerance for spice.
The Chinese tend to have it alongside smaller dishes of vegetables and meat; head down to McCullum Street in the heart of the city for a taste at the famous Ocean Fish Head Curry eatery.
The Indians likewise tend to eat it in a similar manner, having it with rice, pappadams and Indian pickle; check out the Banana Leaf Apolo in Little India, as well as the famous Muthu’s Curry on Race Course Road, which is just a few yards away.
Savour the soft chunks of meat and dig into the eyes of the fish and complement the spicy flavours with a tall glass of Kingfisher (Indian beer) or ice-cold lemonade. This is another dish you must have during your visit here, as you are unlikely to find something like this anywhere else in the world.
The Peranakans (Straits-born Chinese) also have their own unique version of the Nonya Fish Head Curry. In the Nonya recipe, the curry contains a richer rempah (mixed spices) and the use of dried sour fruit slices, giving the dish a distinctive tanginess. The Curry Fish Head is usually served with a mix of vegetables such as eggplant (aubergine), okra (lady fingers), long beans and tau pok (fried beancurd).