I used to work around Telok Ayer and there’s a branch of Ocean Curry Fish Head there. It was the place that we used to go at month end when we got our pay check and wanted a more decadent lunch.
Ocean Curry Fish Head is a local eatery that focus on doing one thing well – curry fish head. But it is not everyday that we will eat curry fish head, so they have branched out to offer “economy rice” 雜菜飯, but their “economy rice” is not economical as well. But there’s a constant lunch time crowd at their Telok Ayer branch.
But today we were at their HQ at Toa Payoh. My family has been going to Ocean since I was a kid. They first opened at the coffeeshop at Geylang Lor 35. Then they moved to Toa Payoh Lor 8 and opened another branch at Telok Ayer Street. They finally settled in the current Toa Payoh Lor 4 location.
There’s always a long queue for the “economy rice”, which is Singapore’s version of Chinese takeaway 自助餐. They have a huge variety of dishes to pick from, but economical they are not.
Their Har Cheong Gai 蝦醬雞 (Shrimp Paste Chicken) was one of the first I tasted and I have always been infatuated with the taste. Although it was not invented by them (the defunct Loy Sum Juan restaurant invented it), they were definitely the benchmark that I used to compare with others (including my own).
Blanched and mixed with curry leaves, the baby sotongs were overcooked in my opinion. But these days, it was rather rare to see these tiny cephalopods, so I ordered and devoured it anyway.
Although this is a vegetable, but it was never charged as one. Petai (or smelly beans as they are referred to) is an acquired taste. Very sharp in taste, it would come out the next couple of hours in a very pungent way. As such, people believe that it is good for the bladder and kidney as it “cleanses” these organs. Sambal petai is a common way to prepare them, to hide that sharp, pungent taste.
I came specially for their sambal cockles. Their sambal cockles have appeared so many times in my gastronomical wet dreams. The blood cockles were cooked perfectly, soft and still bloody. Smothered in sambal chili, I can still taste the subtle flavours of the blood cockle at every mouthful. I would be satisfied with this and curry fish head. I wanted to pack some home for the family, but the boss warned against it – it was barely cooked, so it would not survive the trip home without risk of contamination. MUST ORDER when you come.
And we had to balance the meal with some greens, and sambal kangkong it would be.
Economy rice would be something like this – a selection of dishes placed together on a bed of steamed white rice. This alone would have set you back $6-10 here.
Curry Fish Head
If you are having fish head, just go straight to the counter and order from the boss with an attitude. He is constantly in a foul mood, and it was the same when we were there. The wife runs the Telok Ayer branch and she is more jovial and accommodating. This would allow you to skip the queue that’s forming for the economy rice.
Ocean’s style of curry fish head is the Peranakan-style curry fish head with sweetish, slightly tangy sauce and very mild heat from the masala curry. Served bubbly hot in a claypot, the fish used was fresh Ang Ko Li 紅戈里 (gold band sea bream). We ordered extra load of vegetables.
While Ocean is not the inventor of curry fish head, they were definitely one of the best specimen in the vast sea of choices out there. I especially enjoyed the ladyfingers in the curry, which I never failed to order extra whenever I came for lunch.
And the only way to enjoy it was to drown the steamed rice with ample curry, and enjoyed it with the rest of the dishes. Everything was nice, but curry with rice and the meal was complete!
Very popular choice for curry fish head, do come early or book a table (depending on the boss’ mood).
Date Visited : May 2021