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Where to Eat Empurau ● Most Expensive Unforgettable Fish in Singapore 忘不了


Today is my first time tasting the legendary Empurau or "unforgettable fish 忘不了". It has the reputation of being the most expensive fish in Singapore and Malaysia. We had it at Zai Shun Curry Fish Head in Jurong East near Yuhua Village Market & Food Centre.

But, what makes the Empurau fish, unforgettable?


The fish came from the rivers of Sarawak (East Malaysia) frozen and thawed at the restaurant. The slow growing fish takes 3 years to reach marketable size. Empurau flesh is sweet as it feeds on fruits and berries from trees arching over the river where it lives.


Actually the Empurau (also known as Ikan Kelah or Manseer) is not a rare fish - it is found in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia. I had hundreds squirming around my feet at Tasik Kenyir in Trengganu, Malaysia 😱 

A species of the Cyprinidae or carp family, the Empurau feeds on algae, frogs, insects, small fish and fruits that fall into the water.


It is the diet of Empurau fish from Sarawak that makes all the difference, setting it apart from all its other brethren. They feed on a fruit known locally as 风车果 or "windmill fruit". The fruit has wings that carry it a distance in the air from the tree after falling. It is known as Engkabang in Malay.

Engkabang trees are common in Sarawak and its oily seed is traditionally used in cooking. It has a buttery taste and locals use it to cook rice. Empurau fish that feed on "windmill fruit" have a fruity sweetness in its flesh. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Our fish was slightly over 2 kg. Zai Shun sells Empurau fish at $200 per kg (seasonal price ☎ +65 6560 8594 to confirm availability and price). Prices have come down considerably from once stratospheric levels of over $1,000 per kilo, so many more people can try this fish today.


Every part of the fish is eaten. While we waited for our Empurau to be steamed, we were served these fish scales which were fried with peppercorn, curry leaves and spices.


The fish scales fried till golden brown were thin and crisp like curled up chips. The scales don't have their own flavour but relied on the peppercorn, spices and curry leaves for taste and aroma. They were quite enjoyable while we chatted and waited for the leading star i.e. main course.

I found that fried Empurau fish scales go very well with simple plain white porridge. The soft clean tasting sweet porridge works very well with the crispy savoury-spicy fried fish scales.


Tadah...! My first Empurau fish (steamed Cantonese style).

Yeah lah....., I am a mountain tortoise..., eat until so old then have a chance to taste the unforgettable fish 😂


The Empurau fish was meaty. The thick flesh was white, tender and moist. The meat was gently fruity sweet which was complemented by the mildly savoury dressing sauce. The belly was slightly sweeter with a smoother feel to the bite. There was a fleeting subtle earthly taste which was hardly discernible. Empurau is neither a greasy nor fatty fish.


The head is small, not much flesh or skin. I forgot to taste the head as I was enjoying the company too much - we were too engrossed exchanging notes on the best eating places in Singapore and Johor 😂

Fortunately, our chief taster was more on the ball. Her verdict? "Empurau fish head, delicious, very delicious!"


The Empurau is a bony fish, so do be mindful when you are eating it.


Zai Shun Curry Fish Head is a very popular and busy restaurant. If you are coming for Empurau, it is best to call ☎ +65 6560 8594 to check availability of the fish, seasonal price and to reserve a table. Do be punctual as the tables are in high demand especially during peak hours.


So, how unforgettable is the Empurau fish?

Years down the road, will I still remember this supposedly unforgettable fish?

The Empurau is a tasty fish, but there are other premium fishes that are just as enjoyable though none have the same subtle fruity sweet taste profile. I wonder how much of the excitement behind the Empurau craze a few years ago was driven by media hype and sensationalisation over its once insane price.

Nice, yes. Fall-off-the-chair mind blown, not really. 

Today at $200 per kilo (seasonal price), it is worth checking it out for yourself. Just go to any restaurant that serves it and consistently executes steamed fishes well (don't spoil the expensive fish for you mah).

I recommend Zai Shun.

I have been a regular at Zai Shun for over 20 30 years. They are always consistently good and competitively priced. Here are posts from my past visits:

At Zai Shun we get restaurant quality fish at a fraction of the price 👈 click

Zai Shun is a place for exotic premium fish done very nicely without breaking the bank 👈 click

Truth be told, to share this topic with any credibility I need to taste a few more Empurau 忘不了 in different places, including in Sarawak. The best Empurau are said to be wild fish from Kapit along Sungai Rajang River and Putai along Sungai Baleh River. I need to be able to tell if an Empurau is wild caught or farmed by the way it looks and how it tastes. So, this post is a work in progress which I will update as I progress along in my learning journey. Come back for updates! 😄


Restaurant name: Zai Shun Curry Fish Head

Address: 253 Jurong East Street 24, #01-205, Singapore 600253

Nearest MRT: 10 minutes walk from Chinese Garden station

Tel: +65 6560 8594 (pre-booking is important to confirm availability)

Hours: 7:00am - 3:00pm (Weds off)

I like this matter-of-fact review by 小文哥. (To enjoy the video, turn off the horrible subtitles.)

Written by Tony Boey on 3 Dec 2020 | Reviewed on 29 Dec 2022


  1. They are very good with the bittergourd fried egg, pig trotter and steam fish. I do not appreciate their 忘不了 because they are bred, not wild. I think you cannot even get that price in Malaysia for wild ones. I had tasted this fish before it went crazy pricey. It is a under 1kg fish and it was steamed with a bit of Chinese alcohol, like how they steam 鲥鱼 in China. The scale was on the fish, steamed and they can be ate. I remember it was Tian Court, by that Taiwanese chef, 添财。Forgot last name.

    1. yes we had bitter gourd fried egg (every time) and other steamed fish (this time small servings of giant grouper and shovel nose). didn't order the pork trotter as we were at the limits of our tummy space.

  2. Hi Tony,
    Referring to your article where “Zai Shun sells Empurau fish at $200 per kg (seasonal price). Prices have come down considerably from once stratospheric levels of over $1,000 per kilo, so many more people can try this fish today."

    Ikan empurau available nowadays are farmed variety, therefore kinder to the pocket.

    Wild caught fish are still in four digits price range per kilogram, as high as in USD and as low as in MYR, particularly if the fish is more than 3.5kg. High demand has driven the fish to near extinction.

    1. Thank you Crawler for your insights as always. Yes most Empurau today are farm raised.

  3. Why bother to try this super expensive 2KG Empurau when the "Unforgettable" experience can only be had for a 5KG and above Empurau? Anything less than 5KG will taste like a normal bony fish. Chinatown market will sometimes have these smaller Empuraus going for just tens of dollars. And they do just taste normal

  4. Not many know yet but u can also buy the fish at tiong baru market stall 149/150. Look for Henry. Price about 80-110 dollars a kilo


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