In my previous post, I managed to establish that it was Gomez who started the whole Fish Head Curry craze in Singapore. But when did the Chinese catch on? Ah, that is a good question. It’s actually the best kind of question because I know the the answer. And the answer is Soon Heng.
Well not quite Soon Heng. Soon Heng is the name of the restaurant. The man behind the restaurant is Mr Hoong Ah Kong who arrived in Singapore in 1936 and started working as a kitchen hand. But being the smart man that he was, he decided to learn how to cook Indian food rather than Chinese food because he figured that a Chinaman serving Indian food would make quite a good marketing gimmick. He subsequently opened his first restaurant, Chin Wah Heng in 1951 just two years after the famous Gomez Curry and when Gomez Curry started selling Curry Fish Head, he followed suit. The flagship restaurant, Soon Heng was subsequently opened in 1975. So since Gomez Curry is not longer in operation, Soon Heng would be Singapore’s (and indeed, the world’s) oldest Fish Head Curry restaurant!
Although Mr Hoong’s Fish Head Curry started off as a typically South Indian Style curry, it has since evolved to become more localized. The use of spices is less heavy handed and there is the addition of coconut in the form of Kerisik (dry fried shredded coconut) gives the curry a very nice and savoury flavour. The fish head is fresh and steamed before being finished in the curry just before serving. Personally, I the flavours of this curry is very balanced. It is sweeter, milder and not as tangy as other Fish Head Curries and I actually like it that way. However, if you prefer your fish head curry fiery and sourish, then this one might not give you the endorphin releasing and sweat breaking punch you seek. For me it was a 4.5 but some of my kakis feel it lacks the punch, so the overal score is 4.25/5
The other signature dish here is the black ink Sotong. This dish is part of a selection of pre-cooked side dishes which include Curry Chicken, Sayor Lodeh (Veg curry) and Beef Rendang. The sauce the the dish is very nice but the sotong didn’t have that nice toothy bite as it has been in the bain marie for a little too long. It would have probably been better earlier in the day. 4/5
If you are a Curry Fish Head lover, then Soon Heng is definitely a pilgrimage you need to take since it is Singapore’s oldest Curry Fish Head restaurant!