article #9 . Last in the series .

The House of Steamed Grass Carp Head

If you are a Singaporean and you don't know this place, then shame on you! I am of course talking about Sik Wai Sin Eating House at 287 Geylang Rd. near Lorong 15. It is famous for a fine range of Cantonese home-style food, but the steamed Grass Carp Fish Head is legendary. Last night I went there with my constant eating companion Masaki Okada and two of his friends Mr Kashiyama and Mr.Kawaguchi, three Japanese who love our Singapore 'street food'.As usual, the place was crowded, and I had to wait for a table. But the owner's wife gave us a good table when she saw Mr. Kashiyama step out of his chaffeured Mercedes-she thought he was a well-known property developer! And after seeing Senior Minister Lee talk about property speculation on TV, she hoped he would give her a discount on condominiums too.

Now about the Grass Carp Head. It is fresh, with a smooth shiny look, steamed in a mixture of soya bean paste,shallots, garlic, ginger, rice wine, and garnished with fresh sliced red chilli, spring onions and pork lard.The smell was heavenly and we ate, not one, but two fish heads; washed down with good Singapore Tiger Beer.

Other dishes we ate included: minced pork steamed with salted fish. I should add that this salted fish is of the best Penang type made from Ikan Kurau, with a smoky taste that comes from slow sun-drying. There was also the Toufu with Prawns, which my Japanese friends liked very much. Also green Kai Lan vegetables simply fried, and a soup of pork with Watercress. Every dish was of good standard because the owner-cook has all these years refused to let anyone else, not even his wife, do the cooking. She can only help with the preparation of ingredients. But I wonder if this can go on for long, as he is my friend and I can see the stress and strain of cooking before a hot fire seven days a week, for about 15 years since he was 'discovered'.

If you ask me to name the style of cooking here, I am at a loss for words. I can only say that it is quite unique, a robust, country-side style,unashamedly strong in flavour, fit for those with good appetite. I think the best testimony to how close it is to family cooking is when you go there on weekends and see many good sons bringing their mothers and grandmothers here.Maybe mothers and grandmothers find the cooking of Filipino maids too gentrified.

Reader's comment:

For your info, the chef pictured in your article is not the first chef of sik wai sin eating house. The founder is the chef's father-in-law who has since passed away. The cooking's still as good though. There used to be roasted duck and a really good stewed yam with pork loin that they no longer make because these 2 dishes take too much effort. - Wong Chiang Yin

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