Fish head curry and crab beehoon

Posted on December 8, 2005 by Aun

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the best, casual and local dining experience in Singapore can be found at the Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant, located at the corner of Geylang Road and Geylang Lorong 35. Of course, for many foodies out there, and especially the local ones, this is hardly news. Sin Huat is a cult phenomenon, a foodie pilgrimage point written about in dozens of international publications from the New York Times to Gourmet. It was also famously featured as “the finest restaurant in Singapore” by Anthony Bourdain in his TV show, A Cook’s Tour, early this year.

S and I first discovered this restaurant in late 1999/early 2000. We had gone searching for it for two reasons. The first was that friends connected with the film industry had told us it was Michelle Yeoh’s favorite place to eat in Singapore–a place that she insisted on eating at on every trip. The second was because of the chef’s most famous dish, a sinful combination of Sri Lankan crabs fried with beehoon noodles. At the time, S was, among other editorial duties, writing the food reviews for 8 Days, Singapore’s highest circulated newsstand magazine. Her article on Sin Huat was, we believe, the first one to publicize Sin Huat and the amazing food cooked by the very cool but very eccentric self-trained chef-owner, Danny Lee. A few weeks after S’s 8 Days article, the 2000 edition of Makansutra, the awesome street food guide published by a friend of ours, KF Seetoh, hit the bookshelves. This edition also carried a rave review of Sin Huat. And just like that, Sin Huat was no longer a secret.

Over the next few months, 8 Days regularly ran short, edited versions of S’s review, ensuring that readers couldn’t help but take note of Sin Huat. Here’s an example that ran in the 20 May 2000 edition:

“Sin Huat’s famous crab beehoon (for four) alone may set you back an eye-popping $72 and six steamed tiger prawns can cost something in the region of $42! Yet, you would hear nary a peep of complaint from their diners, which includes chop-socky goddess of action, Michelle Yeoh, who we understand makes it a point to tuck into the steamed fish here whenever she’s in town. Be warned, though. To dine here, one must firmly believe that ‘all good things come to those who wait’… and wait. Once the food arrives, though, all impatience will dissipate. The fresh steamed gong-gongs (mini-size conchs, $25 a kilo) come with an extraordinary chilli dip, its garlicky spiciness addictive to the last bit. The steamed prawns ($42), gargantuan by any standards, are tastebud-thrillers to the end. The pièce de résistance, the award-winning crab beehoon ($36, one crab), is equally stunning – both in size and flavour. The Godzillian crab bursts with roe and the flesh is firm, as it should be, though the beehoon is a tad too sweet for our liking. Still, we wouldn’t have seafood any other way. Michelle Yeoh is certainly on to a good thing….”

In addition to eating at Sin Huat as often as possible, S and I loved introducing it to friends, including many friends who write about food for a living. Over the past few years, we’ve introduced Danny’s crab beehoon to several famous foodies, including Matthew Evans, the food reviewer of the Sydney Morning Herald and at the time with The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Rob McKeown, then Asia correspondent for Gourmet and now with Travel + Leisure, famed British foodie Kevin Gould, and yes, Anthony Bourdain.

The flip side, however, of all this advocacy, is that Danny’s restaurant is now perpetually packed. Smart and regular patrons dine later and later in order to avoid sitting around for up to an hour waiting for their food. Danny himself, on a recent visit, advised us that the best time to come is after 9pm (he’s open to 1am). Local friends, who had been dining there prior to all the publicity, now sometimes give us dirty looks, blaming us for making it difficult for them to get Danny’s food whenever they want.

Anyway, as mentioned, writing about just how amazing Danny’s crab beehoon is, is hardly news. What is news though (at least to me) is that Danny is now serving up fish head curry at lunch time. Previously, Danny leased space to a fish head curry hawker (he also leases space to a very famous duck rice hawker and another well-known turtle soup hawker). But recently, he decided that the quality of the fish head being sold out of his coffee shop just wasn’t good enough. So, when the hawker’s lease was up, he didn’t renew it and took over the stall himself.

S and I went over last Saturday to check it out. I’m happy to say that it was good. Very good in fact. The curry was tasty and not too spicy. The fish meat was incredibly tender. When I asked Danny if he steamed it first, he grinned but refused to give me an answer. When I asked again and he changed the subject, S elbowed me and told me to just shut up and enjoy my food. Which was damn good advice.

What amazes me about Danny is he serves breakfast (you should try his coffee–made from beans he roasts himself), lunch and dinner every day of the week. He must sleep less than 3 or 4 hours a night. But nonetheless, everything he serves is always excellent.

Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant
659-661 Geylang Lorong 35 (at the corner of Geylang Rd)
Tel: 6744-9778

p.s. For another good review of Sin Huat, check out this review on Nibble & Scribble

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Anonymous December 8, 2005 at 1:13 am

    How much does the fish head curry cost?

  2. Mamafattie December 8, 2005 at 9:14 am

    Hi

    Neither a cook nor aspiring/amateur chef I am (heck I can’t even crack an egg decently to save my life), but I love to eat. And hence your blog has been a most interesting read, not forgetting to mention the excellent (read: enticing) photography.

    Unfortunately, my experience at Sin Huat has been almost the exact opposite of yours (and I don’t think I’m alone here). Eccentric is a nice word- I’d use weird/rude I’m afraid. My first (and last) visit was 2 years back- the wait was expected, but the way he took the orders wasn’t. And after eating some of his famous dishes, I left feeling thirsty (literally).

    A few friends made a recent visit and told me that they couldn’t order duck from lessee stall because they were told that “he won’t deliver your orders if he sees it”. And when they asked for the menu, he told them “menus are for the graduates”. OKAY.

    All I’m saying is this- if he isn’t interested in attracting new customers, that’s ok. Just plaster a sign somewhere that says “For regulars only- the rest, please buzz off”.

  3. steve December 8, 2005 at 10:49 am

    We just ate at Sin Huat 2 nights ago. So this post brings back memories.

    Yes, the chef demands the ingredients to be very fresh and rich. And he has a good feel blending the freshness and flavors without overcooking the seafood.

    The lack of service is amazing. Asked 3 times for an extra glass for a latecomer – 1 guy just sat and stared blankly. Asked twice for extra sauce for the conk shells – which never came.

    We were introduced to Sin Huat back in the ’90s. Over the years we felt the prices kept going up. Back then the price for crab was $30/kg. Prices for everything else is guesswork. Neither the chef nor the order taker like questions.

    Still Sin Huat is one of the better seafood place. We now dine there occaisionally mostly with overseas guests to show off our local food and the exorbitant pricing. Btw, we paid $470 for 8 pax.

  4. Anonymous December 8, 2005 at 11:56 am

    Ha, our very own Crab Nazi!

    umami
    http://umami.typepad.com/umami/

  5. Nerissa December 8, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    Wow… I don’t know when I’ll get to Singapore but I’d love a chance to eat at this restaurant. SOUNDS YUMMY!

  6. kidd05 December 9, 2005 at 8:09 am

    Hi! I’m a Singaporean undergrad studying in the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and I stumbled across your food blog when I was surfing the net and searching desperately for something that’d evoke pleasant memories of food other than potatoes cooked twenty different ways… Guess I found it here. I love your photographs, they’re extremely tastefully taken (pun wholly intended). Keep up the good work- I’ll definitely be a loyal follower of your blog! :)

  7. Chubby Hubby December 9, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    anonymous: Actually, and embarrassingly, I don’t know. Someone else paid for us.

    Wendy: Well, Danny is an acquired taste. And you either accept that his oddities, and reverse snobbery, or not. I’m perfectly cool with it by now and I think the food is worth it. Of course, having been there so often, he does recognize us and does probably treat us better than first-timers.

    Steve: As I said above, you have to go there expecting certain things. We usually help ourselves to drinks and feel pretty normal getting up and chasing down Danny’s sister when we need something. The thing to remember is this is an outdoor coffee shop in Geylang, despite the prices. You aren’t gonna get Les Amis service here.

    Umami: Indeed!

    DiningDica: It is yummy. It’s definitely worth the visit.

    Kidd05: Thanks.

  8. Angelia December 11, 2005 at 11:29 am

    great! never knew Sin Huat served fishhead curry which is my hub’s fave dish (we go to the stall at Toa Payoh Lor 8 all the time).

  9. *kel December 18, 2005 at 8:30 am

    I just stumbled across your site. This fish head thingy looks yummy!

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