Samy’s Curry

We trekked into the hilly depths of Dempsey one Friday night to answer a craving for Indian food. Specifically, we were on a mission to try out the fiery Indian style fish head curry, as opposed to the sourish assam curry most Chinese Singaporeans are used to.

Dempsey, an area obviously developed without any consideration for the needs of those without cars, has an uppity vibe that I’m not fond of. Which is why the interior of Samy’s – well ventilated and unpretentious – came as a surprise. A quick scan of the menu revealed that prices were reasonable, so that gave us free rein to do that overordering thing. The two of us opted for briyani over white rice (duh), one fish head curry turned into three protein-based dishes, and of course we had to get a coconut each to quell the spicy.

Briyani Rice, $3.60.

Almost instantly after we’d placed our orders, a server materialized out of what seemed like nowhere, set down banana leaves on our table in placemat positions and doled out generous scoops of briyani rice, a lentil-based dal and a sizeable portion of aloo fry (fried potatoes). He swiftly laid down 3 pieces of crispy poppadum on the side as a finishing touch, then disappeared as quickly as he’d appeared. Looking in stunned silence at the mountain of carbs in front of us, we didn’t have to say anything to know that we were both regretting how much we’d ordered.

The chickpea-laden basmati rice, tinted yellow and orange with saffron, was fluffy and smelt of star anise and lemongrass. It was good, especially with the creamy dal and lightly spiced fried potatoes, but just shy of brilliant. Still, I was glad I had it on hand to combat the eye-watering spiciness of the fish head curry.

Fish Head Curry, $20.00 for a small portion.

If this is small, I wonder what the large portion looks like.

A concoction of chilli powder, tamarind, mustard seeds and other spices, the spiciness of this powdery curry was of the eye-watering, airway-clogging variety. Tomatoes were used for thickening the consistency of the gravy and gave it a slight tang. The curry also contained hints of the sweetness of angkoli (the colloquial term in this region for red snapper) used.

As the dish was served steaming hot and the curry had numbed my tongue, I wasn’t sure how the fish actually tasted at first. Having been cooked together with the curry, the fish head here was less tender than what one would find in a typical Chinese fish head curry, where the fish head is steamed first before ladling the curry on top. It was only when the curry had cooled down to near-room temperature that we detected a slightly fishy odour when eating the flesh, which indicated that the angkoli used here wasn’t all that fresh.

Mysore Mutton (dry), $10 for small portion.

Although it shouldn’t be a good thing, we were quite relieved when the serving of Mysore mutton turned out to be tiny. Our opinions on this dish were divided. My friend complained that the mutton was dry and tough. I have to agree that the meat could be more tender, but I really enjoyed the aromatic dry curry paste that the mutton had been cloaked in. Consisting of mutton stock fried with (what else but) a whole load of spices and herbs, including powdered turmeric, coriander, fenugreek seeds, cardamom and chilli, the marinade was intense and permeated the mutton thoroughly, and the meat bore no trace of its signature gamey smell. Now I’m curious to try the wet version of this dish – perhaps that would solve the dryness problem?

Masala Chicken, $5.00 a piece.

What we could agree on was that the masala chicken here was outstanding. Marinated with – you guessed it – too many spices to list, the chicken here was moist and flavourful. There were notes of paprika, garlic, ginger, tomato, cumin, and curry leaves. Flavourful might be putting it lightly; this was a flavour-bomb and an absolute marvel. We threw caution (along with our distended bellies) to the wind and scraped all the meat off the bones.

Judging from the numerous tourists we saw in the restaurant, Samy’s Curry is the place to go if you’re looking to give your foreign friends a 101 on Indian cuisine. Service is quick without being brusque, and the food’s above average. You can pop by one of the neighbouring establishments for after-meal drinks as well.

On a side note, Indian food is bloody delicious. Every mouthful is an intense experience and I’ve yet to meet an Indian dish I haven’t enjoyed. That said, I definitely wouldn’t be able to eat such rich food on a daily basis because I’m accustomed to food that’s easier on my digestive system. This subject came up in our dinnertime conversation and we found ourselves wondering what people in India eat when they’re sick. Some days you just need that porridge or clear noodle broth, know what I’m sayin’?

Samy’s Curry
25 Dempsey Road
Singapore 249670

Opening hours: 11.00a.m. to 3.00p.m., 6.00p.m. to 10.00p.m. daily. Closed on Tuesdays.
Tel. No.: 6472 2080

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