Upon our group’s arrival at Changi International Airport, we were welcomed by Desmond, our guide during our ‘Singapore Layover,’ a 3D/2N trip courtesy of TLC-Asia.
Desmond then briefed us on the history of his country as we left the airport. He said that everything in Singapore is ’15 or at most 30 minutes away.’ It is a small country but even so, I experienced no traffic jams, especially the kind that has been plaguing Metro Manila, during my brief stay there. We then checked in at a hotel across the luxurious Hyatt, where Anthony Bourdain stayed in that maiden Layover episode.
Our first food stop that afternoon was Samy’s Curry, a popular restaurant located at Dempsey Hill, the former British barracks. It offers fine Southern Indian cuisine, which is said to be spicier compared to its northern counterpart. It traces its history back in the 1950s and has been around since then.
The moment you step in at Samy’s, the scent of Indian spices and herbs is unmistakable. It is overpowering for some, but for some strange reason, I’m drawn to this unfamiliar yet exciting territory.
We were then served with Fish Head Curry, Mysore Mutton and Sambal Prawn, which are said the restaurant’s specialties. The Naan Bread, Fish Cutlets and Pumpkin Dahl followed shortly.
The fragrant heapings of Biryani Rice was placed on a banana leaf which was lightly exposed to flame, adding an interesting aroma to the delicious spread before us. The waitstaff allowed us to choose between two vegetable sides, which one I chose or what were they, I have already forgotten.
The Fish Head Curry was undoubtedly the star among the dishes we had that afternoon. It was really spicy yet flavorful. It had welcome hints of sour notes, which was contributed by the assam fruit, Desmond shared to us.
This used to be just a poor man’s dish, he added. It is said that back in the day, fish heads were just thrown away or sold at a lower price, in favor of the usual fillet cuts. What the chi-chi restaurants missed is that the head of the fish contains more flavor and that the fish cheeks are more tender as well. Add to that a rich sauce made of curry and other spices and what you have is one iconic dish.
The fresh lime juice did not drown out the strong aftertastes of our hearty meal. Not even the mildly sweet Gulab Jamun, a typical Indian dessert, helped in that regard. I’m pretty sure that the heavy scent of spices stubbornly stuck to our clothes as well. But with a memorable lunch like that, none of these mattered, I thought to myself, as we headed to our next stop.
Samy’s Curry Restaurant
25 Dempsey Road
+65 6472 2080