Zen, the owner of Siang Yuan 香园美食馆 invited me to visit her restaurant in Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru.
Xiang Yuan is in a humble shop lot in Bukit Indah. Furnishings are basic but it is spacious and comfortable inside. It is suitable for simple meals with the whole family or a quick meal alone.
Zen runs the restaurant singlehandedly with the help of her workers.
Xiang Yuan's signature dish is their curry fish head. It is based on the recipe handed down by Zen's maternal grandfather.
Our curry fish head in a claypot for RM40 (large).
The meaty Ikan Merah (Red Snapper 红鲷鱼) fish head was uber fresh. The flesh was tender and naturally sweet. The curry gravy had just the right balance of mildly spicy, savoury and sweet. The lady's finger, cabbage, long beans and tomato were cooked till soft. Personally, I prefer a bit more crunch in my vegetables.
The crispy fried bean curd skin softened by sponging up the curry gravy still had a soft crunch.
But, the fish, oh the fish, is definitely one of the best that I have tasted in Malaysia or Singapore.
I was noisily sucking up all the cartilage and collagen around and inside the bone crevices.
Two of us finished the whole large fish head plus most of the side dishes.
I have often been asked, "What is the secret of success in F & B?" There are many factors but based on my observations of the many eateries that I have visited, a good supply chain is often half the battle won.
So here, Zen has a strong upper hand. She gets her fresh fish from her relative who is a fresh fish supplier.
Everyday Zen and her staff gut and clean the fresh fish, and keep them chilled in individual bags.
To make the curry gravy, Zen does everything from scratch using her grandfather's closely guarded recipe. No commercial premixes are used at all.
Zen's grandfather concocted the recipe based on what he learnt about Indian spices from his Indian friends in Ipoh (where Zen hails from).
However, the noble thought of preserving her family heirloom recipe wasn't at the top of Zen's mind when she started Siang Yuan 5 years ago.
Providing for the family is.
And, there is nothing nobler than that.
Besides, selling one of the best curry fish heads in Johor Bahru, Siang Yuan also serves some good side dishes.
Hakka Fried Pork 客家炸肉 RM11 (small).
Preserved vegetable with braised pork belly 梅菜扣肉 RM12 (small).
Rice wine chicken 黄酒鸡 RM10 (small).
Blanched choy sum greens RM8 (small).
If you are a curry fish head fan, I recommend you to come and give Siang Yuan a try. If you are around the Bukit Indah area, Siang Yuan is also a good option for a simple, reasonably priced meal.
Restaurant name: Siang Yuan Restaurant 香园美食馆
Address: 25 Jalan Indah, 10/1, Taman Bukit Indah, Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.479619, 103.649959
Hours: 12:00 noon to 4:00pm | 5:00pm to 10:00pm (Closed on Weds)
Date visited: 6 Apr 2015
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