Food-Hop at Joo Chiat (we compiled a list!) and Immerse in the Rich Peranakan Culture
Where do you think of when I mention good food, late nights and durian? Am I right to guess Geylang? Now, forget about Geylang and let me introduce its friendly neighbor to you — Joo Chiat! This gem sure deserves a spot in your mind when you think of the above.
Joo Chiat was and is a rich area — both in the monetary and heritage sense. The Peranakan and Eurasian communities, both part of the English-educated middle class, resided there. It was adored for its diverse and fascinating mix of history, architecture and culture. Vibrant two-storey shophouses and terrace houses with sophisticated patterns and unique tiles line the roads even till today.
Joo Chiat, much like Geylang, has been associated with sex vice and the rowdy male clientele. It is unfortunate that that has been threating its appeal for years now. However, it is fairly safe to go there, even at night.
At Joo Chiat, you can satiate your taste buds with phenomenal Peranakan food. It is more authentic here since the Peranakans used to live in the area (some still do, today). Choose to eat at places where they bother to pound the spices, instead of those which simply use a blender. Pounding allows the aroma to be released fully, and the taste will be out-of-this-world. I kid you not. Even if it’s a little more pricey, it’s all worth the while. You may want to try Guan Hoe Soon, PeraMakan or Chilli Padi. Ayam Buah Keluak, Babi Pongteh and Nyonya Curry Fish Head are favourites.
Hainanese Chicken Rice, the dish that makes you snap your fingers and yell “Aha — Singapore!” instantly, is so adored by locals and foreigners alike. On this island, there are two most famous brands — Tian Tian and Boon Tong Kee, and both can only be found at Joo Chiat — not Geylang!
Not only that, the most famous wanton mee (noodle with slices of Cantonese roasted pork) in Singapore is also here in Joo Chiat! Feifei Wanton Mee, that is. Better yet, it is open 24/7 so you can kill those hunger pangs anytime. A favourite supper place in the area too.
To get a taste of some very traditional Singapore fare and get a glimpse into its old-school presentation, Sinpopo is where you should be! The café is styled in a fusion of retro and modern and serves unique dishes like Ais Bor (Ice Kacang Ball), Ma Ling Luncheon Crisps (Spam fries) and Orange Kaya Pisang Crème Brulee and Gula Melaka Cake.
Durian lovers, where art thou? You’ve got to try the different variants of this creamy fruit at Durian Lingers (Mao Shan Wang, Black Pearl, D13, etc.), their top-grade durian gelato as well as the renowned durian puffs from Puteri Mas! You’re not Singaporean if you don’t know durian. And, if you don’t, be adventurous and head down to try the King of Fruits! You must have an acquired taste to like it, though, but there’s no harm giving it a go and sharing that once-in-a-lifetime experience with your friends back home.
Not to worry, I have compiled these haunts below for easy reference.
Day or night, you are bound to enjoy the fabulous food the district has got to offer! And as you go along hunting for glorious food, look around you and appreciate the different cultures you see and the rich heritage of the place. Take all its charm in.
Guan Hoe Soon (38/40 Joo Chiat Place. Daily, 10.30am — 3pm & 6pm–9.30pm)
PeraMakan (209 East Coast Road. Daily, 10am to 8pm, closed on Mon)
Chilli Padi (11 Joo Chiat Place, #01–03. Daily, 11.30pm — 2.30pm & 5.30 pm — 10pm)
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Boon Tong Kee (199 East Coast Road. Daily, 11am — 10pm)
Tian Tian (443 Joo Chiat Road)
Fei Fei (62 Joo Chiat Place. Daily, 24h)
Fusion of Retro + Modern Singaporean Food
Sinpopo Brand (458 Joo Chiat Road. Sun 12pm — 10pm, Tues to Thurs 12pm — 10pm, Fri to Sat 12nn — 12am, closed on Mon)
Durian Lingers (155 Still Road. Daily, 12.30pm — 1am)
Puteri Mas (475 Joo Chiat Road)
Embark on your food expedition in Joo Chiat today!
If you know of something Eurasian in the area, let us know!