Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pangkor Curry Fish Head Restaurant


Tempting fish head curry draws the crowd to restaurant.

THE fish head curry is a testimony to our multiracial country, an enticing combination of Chinese, Indian and Malay flavour that results in a mouthwatering dish. Eventhough the Chinese version of this popular dish is milder in terms of spiciness it's still delicious to the last drop.

Cooked in a claypot with a potpourri of ingredients, the dish is savoured for the tender cheekbones and chunks of the Garoupa (sek pan yue) fish head as much as for the aromatic smells of the curry that is cooked using a variety of spices.

All in the family: Alice Tan (right) with her son Alan and daughter Amy.
At Pangkor Curry Fish Head Restaurant, the dish came laden with vegetables like lady fingers and brinjals. According to Chef Alice Tan her key to cooking good curry was to ensure that it remained as healthy as possible, which meant that the fragrant santan (coconut milk) is a big no-no.

Housed in a corner lot at Subang Jaya in an unpretentious setting with minimal décor, the restaurant had been pulling in the crowd for the past 16 years. Many of the regulars vouched for her fish head curry and other signature dishes.

“I replace coconut milk with fresh milk instead,” said Tan. “It’s my mum recipe as she had always been cooking using fresh milk.

Everyone's choice: The Garoupa Fish Head Curry is the restaurant's signature dish.
“I preferred my mum’s cooking method as compared to the one with the coconut milk. .”

Big onions featured heavily in her fish head curry alongside other dishes in the menu. It's available in three sizes - small (for two to three persons), medium, and large (which can be shared among five).

“The Garoupa is a local seawater fish. You cannot use fish that is bred or those from Thailand which contains chemicals, because it would make the gravy sour,” she explained.

Her knowledge on fish and all things seafood reflected her growing years in her small hometown of Pangkor Island.

“I come from a family of fishermen and I love my hometown so much which is why I've named my restaurant after Pangkor,” said Tan.

Having eaten her mum's home-cooked food for much of her childhood, Tan naturally knew the kind of ingredients that her mother used for her cooking.

“Everyone in the family had to help out with hauling in the day's catch, cleaning the fish, and cooking it. We smelled of fish throughout the day but we had so much fun, and in a way, the love for cooking was instilled in us unconsciously,” recalled Tan.

Apart from the popular fish head curry, Tan also recommended her Lemongrass Calamari, cooked with generous doses of lemongrass and curry leaves.

“Lemongrass helps to reduce fat while curry leaves is good for body odour. A friend of mine who has been eating curry leaves from young smells really nice!” said Tan.

For most dishes offered in her menu, Tan heavily emphasised on natural ingredients from big onions to ginger.

“Natural ingredients are known to help cure disease and ailments, so why not make use of what nature has bestowed upon us?”

For chicken lovers: The Honey Soy Chicken where quality soy sauce is used.
Her dish of Oyster Sauce Clam (Kamhiong) is cooked with her favourite big onions.

“I avoid using tauchu (sweet sauce) because it's bottled and preserved for a long time. My big onions are cooked until it turns sticky to get the desired gravy,” said Tan.

Since big onions are everywhere in her menu, it came as no surprise when Tan said she stocks about 600 kilograms of it every month!

Also on her recommendation list were the Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish and Honey Soy Chicken, which she stressed that only quality soy sauce supplied by a relative of hers is used to cook the chicken.

She had left the kitchen now to the able hands of her son Alan Leow who had picked up tips and cooking skills from mum, while younger daughter Amy drops by the restaurant at night to help out since she works during the daytime.

PANGKOR CURRY FISH HEAD RESTAURANT, No. 53, SS15/4C, Subang Jaya. (Tel: 03-5632 8348). Business hours: 11.30am to 3pm (lunch), 5.30pm to 10pm (dinner); daily. Closed on the last Tues and Wed at the end of every month.

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