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Katong - The Undiscovered Side of Singapore

With the opening of the new Marine Parade MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line (Brown Line), it opens up more options and choices for tourists when it comes to accommodations in Singapore.

Katong is a residential neighborhood in Singapore known for its colonial bungalows, colorful shophouses, and rich Peranakan history and culture. The neighborhood is also known as Tanjong Katong, which is Malay for "turtle point". The name refers to the extinct species of sea turtle that once lived in the area, as well as the "rippling effect of a sea mirage" when viewing a shoreline.

Katong was once popular with wealthy Straits Chinese, Europeans, and Jews, who often built mansions and hotels there. Many of the shophouses in Katong were built between the 1840s and mid-1900s, and are largely influenced by Peranakan culture.

With its myriad of pubs, eateries and cafes, Time Out has named Katong the coolest neighborhood in Singapore and 33rd coolest in the world. The new MRT station is just a couple of stops away from the famous Gardens by the Bay. The MRT system will also bring you to Marina Bay, Chinatown and other tourist destinations. It is by distance, the furthest from Sentosa but it is also nearer to Changi Airport.

In this small article, I would highlight some of the hotels you can stay, the amenities around as well as the famous food you can try.

The Grand Mercure is closest to the station.
Next closest is Holiday Inn Express and Indigo Hotel
Furtherst from the station is the Santa Grand
Katong Village is just next to Grand Mercure

The Hotels

The nearest hotel to the MRT station is the Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy. Just opposite it is the Parkway Parade shopping mall with two supermarkets. There are other supermarkets nearby that do not need you to cross the main road.

A bit further inland is the Hotel Indigo and Holiday Inn Express and they are located next to each other. Of the two, Hotel Indigo looks more luxurious with Holiday Inn Express more budget. The price of their rooms shows that too.

A 4-star Village Hotel Katong is also next to the Grand Mercure and is a the oldest looking that the rest in this list.

Another hotel that is much further away is the Santa Grand Hotel East Coast. A boutique hotel from design it features the facade of the Peranakan shop houses dotted around the area with a tall building at the back.

Quite a few supermarkets around the hotels
The Fairprice Finest is right below Village Hotel

The Amenities

There are a lot of supermarkets surrounding these hotels. Right next the Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo is the i12 shopping mall with CS (Cold Storage) supermarket at the basement. Right at the ground floor of the Indigo Hotel is Killiney Coffee Shop for the local breakfast, Starbucks if you want to go Americano and Baba Chew bistro bar.

Just below Village Hotel is the local supermarket chain NTUC Fairprice. This is where you can buy the Kaya jam to bring back home.

For other amenities such as pharmacies, clinics etc, you can head over to Parkway Parade and Marine Parade Promenade central.

Pubs and Cafes with Co-Working Space
The Famous 328 Laksa...
...Prefer the one inside Roxy Square
The Peranakan Exprience / The Shoot
The Colourful Peranakan Houses (Koon Seng Rd/Tembeling Rd)

The Culture & Food: Peranakans

The Katong area in Singapore is well-known for its rich Peranakan culture and heritage. Peranakan culture, also known as Straits Chinese or Baba-Nyonya culture, is a unique blend of Chinese, Malay, and other local influences.

  • Katong Antique House: This museum provides insights into Peranakan culture through its extensive collection of artifacts, furniture, and traditional costumes. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the history and customs of the Peranakan community. By appointment only.

  • The Intan: Located within the Intan museum, the Peranakan Tiles Gallery showcases a stunning collection of Peranakan tiles, which are known for their vibrant colors and intricate designs. Visitors can explore the gallery to admire these decorative tiles and learn about their significance in Peranakan architecture. By appointment only.

  • Kim Choo Kueh Chang: This iconic shop in Katong specializes in traditional Peranakan snacks and delicacies, including kueh chang (glutinous rice dumplings), kueh tutu (steamed rice cakes), and ondeh ondeh (coconut-filled rice balls). Visitors can sample these delicious treats and purchase Peranakan-inspired gifts and souvenirs.

  • Rumah Bebe Peranakan Boutique: Rumah Bebe offers an immersive Peranakan experience with its boutique store and tea room. Visitors can browse through a wide selection of Peranakan handicrafts, textiles, and apparel, as well as enjoy traditional Peranakan high tea with Nyonya kuehs (cakes) and savory snacks.

  • Katong Laksa: Katong laksa is a spicy, orangey-yellow soup dish that originated in Singapore's Katong precinct. It's a variation of laksa lemak, which was inspired by the Peranakans (Straits Chinese) who live there. The dish is made with coconut milk, dried shrimp, spicy soup stock, cockles, prawns, and fishcake. The noodles are cut into small pieces so the dish can be eaten with a spoon. There are two places you can try this dish that should be as iconic as chilli crab.

  • Janggut Laksa - It is located next to Mecure Hotel. 50 East Coast Road, Roxy Square

  • 328 Laksa at 51 East Coast Road. This is the famous one but does not taste as rich.

The Janggut (Katong) Laksa. Coconut goodness in a bowl.

The Food

Katong is popular for its food, including the famous Katong Laksa, a spicy Straits Chinese noodle soup. The neighborhood also has a mix of old and new stores, including family businesses, quaint shophouses, cool cafes, hip boutiques, and specialty stores.

Marine Parade Promenade Hawker Center

Marine Parade Promenade is the town center of Marine Parade, a self-sufficient estate in Singapore with commercial, recreational, and leisure facilities. The promenade includes neighborhood shops, Parkway Center, and Parkway Parade, a commercial complex with offices and a shopping mall. The main draw of the promenade is Parkway Parade, a shopping center that's popular for a leisurely walk after night falls on East Coast Park.

There are a few good local food stalls and restaurant that you can try at or around the hawker center.

  • D'authentic Nasi Lemak - Coconut milk infused steamed rice with delectable fried chicken, fried mashed potato called begedil, crispy anchovies, egg and peanuts. MUST eat with the sweet-spicy chilli paste (at least try). Singaporeans go-to breakfast other than kaya toast and coffee or roti prata.

  • Whampoa Soya Milk and Bean Curd- If you are not into coffee, then the Soya Milk and Bean Curd is a fulfilling breakfast too.

  • Roland Restaurant - Arguably the place that started the Singapore Chilli Crab craze. Where to eat it than at the source of seafood brilliance? Address: 89 Marine Parade Central, 6th Floor Unit 750

Kaya Toast @ Chin Mee Chin Confectionery 204 East Coast Road

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery in Singapore has been in business since 1925, starting as a bread delivery service for nearby homes. Tan Hui Dong founded the business, and in the 1940s, his son Tan Joo Long expanded the offerings beyond homemade breads. The shop has remained a nostalgic fixture in the Katong community for close to a century, welcoming generations of diners with its thick spreads of housemade kaya, soft boiled eggs, and other traditional Eurasian confections. Here is their menu. The Red House in Katong, Singapore was originally the Katong Bakery & Confectionery Company, which opened in 1925 and was known for its Swiss rolls and curry puffs. The bakery was located at 75 East Coast Road and got its name from the distinctive red color of its two-story shophouse facade. It is now taken over by Micro Bread & Co that offers western breakfast and other breads. Here is their menu.

Vietnamese Restaurants

There is a sizeable Vietnamese restaurants along Joo Chiat Road and the one I frequent a lot for the past years is Long Phuong (Dragon Phoenix). You can try the food if you want more variety.

The famous Mutton Herbal Soup

British Hainan

This is the one place to eat another unique Singaporean fare is British Hainan. The Hainanese came to Singapore as early as 1821 to trade goods but this group of Chinese did not emigrate until much later. By then most of the jobs are taken up by other dialect groups and it only left a few opportunities for work.

One of those opportunities is to be a chef on merchant ships, in the kitchen of rich families including the European and British households. Some opened local coffee shops and offered Kaya Toast as part of the breakfast set that includes half boiled eggs.

Some of these chefs left their former employers' kitchens and set up their own eateries and restaurants and the unique Hainanese-Western cuisine is born, mixing local ingredients and western cooking methods.

Right now, and British Hainan are offering a special dinner set.

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