Fish Head Curry

An iconic dish of Singapore, its origin has been a topic of hot debate with many claiming it as their own. Some say that it came straight from India when a man from Kerala migrated to Singapore and introduced the dish to the locals which was an instant hit. However, some also believe that the nature of the dish is Malay. Some insist it’s a native dish of India. Locals are convinced that this is truly Singaporean.

Whether it’s Singaporean, Indian, or Malay, fish head curry gives the palate an experience like no other. It is a dish reminiscent of Singapore – intense in flavors with a delicate balance of fresh, spicy, tangy.

The Fish Head Experience

Fresh head of red snapper is often used in this dish, but any head of a medium-to-large fish may be substituted. The Chinese believes that it is the meat closest to the bone that is the most tasty, and they prefer fish heads for its gelatinous cheeks and eyes. Forget the boring meaty tail, the head is the star of this dish as it pairs perfectly well with the curry sauce.

Basics of The Fish Head Curry

Give or take an ingredient or two, the nature of a hearty fish head curry will always include only the freshest fish head, the rempah, mixed vegetables and coconut cream.

As long as it’s a fresh catch, you may use the head of any large fish, but the more common ones are parrot, red snapper (ikan merah), barramundi or sea bass fillet, or garoupa.

The rempah, or the mixed spices, may be wet or dry. The most common rempah for curries will include garlic, shallots, turmeric, ginger, red chilies, lemon grass, curry leaves or powder. After pounding or blitzing all these, fry these in oil to make a paste.

Lastly, fresh coconut cream holds it all together and tames the spiciness of the rempah.

Popular Places to Get your Fish Head Curry Fix

This is a popular dish and very convenient to find in hawker centres.

However, for the best experience, as recommended by most, head to Race Course Road for the famous Muthu’s Curry or in Little India for Banana Leaf Apolo version.

Sources of this article on fish head curry—fish-head-curry

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  • 1. Clean the fish head thoroughly removing any gills and blood.
  • 2. Steam the fish for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on its size.
  • 3. For the curry rempah, blitz in a food processor or pound in a mortar all ingredients except the fish head, eggplant, okra and coconut cream.
  • 4. In a pan, heat some oil and add the rempah. Stir fry for 15 minutes until all the flavours are blended.
  • 5. Add the eggplant and okra.
  • 6. When the vegetables are almost done. Add the coconut cream and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Stir every minute to make sure the cream is cooked well.
  • 7. Add in the fish and simmer in low fire for another 5 minutes.

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