It’s been gray and drab for the past two weeks. The monsoon rains won’t let up and it looks like we’re in for more rain until the end of the month. Right now, my mind is in beautiful Katong but I’m in rainy Manila with the TV on while my kid pretends to study for her Math exam tomorrow. And I’m trying to get out of this funk through writing. Sometimes you just gotta find ways to lift your spirits up.
So, what can I say about Katong? For one, it really is a beautiful neighborhood steeped in history, heritage and with an excessive and diverse array of local dishes. Mention Katong and what instantly comes to mind are picture-perfect Peranakan shophouses and villas. The neighborhood we visited is part of the Joo Chiat community where Joo Chiat Road meets East Coast Road. But why we decided to visit this colorful and charming little neighborhood is the food.
TIP: Devote a whole day to explore Katong. Have breakfast at a local Cha Chaang Teng like Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, explore the streets of Katong, then do the museum rounds in the afternoon. Of course, eat your way through this neighborhood and sample the world famous laksa among other sumptuous dishes in the area.
It’s always about the food. And you thought we’ve had enough of it in Tiong Bahru. Anyway, it’s common knowledge with Singaporeans that Katong is a food destination but it’s somewhat unknown to first timers in Singapore. Most tourists skip this part of Singapore, they would rather troop down to Chinatown or Bugis to sample local dishes because it’s more accessible. I can’t blame them. I’ve been to Singapore a number of times but it was only this year that I finally gave this area a go.
Why it took this long? Like I said, it was just too far and out of the way. We even rode UBER from Paya Lebar station (it’s the nearest MTR) just to get here. Normally we would just walk from the MRT and explore a neighborhood on foot but Katong is 2 to 3 kilometers away.
SIDE NOTE: With the Singapore sun, you’d be crazy not to ride a cab or in our case, UBER! I don’t know how many times Uber saved us from this kind of predicament. If only weather in Singapore is similar to Hong Kong during winter…
First stop — 328 Katong Laksa! I’m not sure if this laksa put Katong on the must visit map or it’s the other way around. But whatever the case, 328 Katong Laksa is definitely a must visit! It’s located along East Coast Road — the main food hub. You’ll never run out of choices here — traditional kopitiams or local coffeeshops that serve thick coffee and kaya, Peranakan restaurants and of course, restaurants that offer local dishes such as the world-famous laksa and chicken rice. Most of them are along this road.
What We Ate
In the 3 hours we spent exploring this neighborhood, we shared the following between the four of us that afternoon:
- 3 bowls of Laksa from 328 Katong
- 2 orders of Hainanese Chicken Rice from Boon Tong Kee and Five Star
- 3 cups of Coffee, one Milo Dinosaur, two cupcakes and an order of Kaya Toast from Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
We knew we wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon so we ate all that we can in the little time we had. We were so full. Life is good.
You know those houses you see in a nondescript street during travels, ones that stick to you long after you’ve gone home. The same ones you dream about as your own –the pretty windows with intricate woodwork, pastel-colored facade with a one car garage, and floor tiles that get a thousand or more likes in Instagram. For me, the houses along Koon Seng Road in Katong are the stuff of dreams.
They definitely left me with a very strong impression.
We strolled around for a bit and found more buildings and houses with lovely architecture.
While there, we also got to visit Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in Ceylon Road. Established in the 1850s with the discovery of the statue of Lord Vinayagar just beside a pond where a Senpaga or Chempaka tree stood, thus the name of Senpaga Vinayagar. The word Sri was later on added as a respectful prefix.
We only had the afternoon to explore Katong and we barely scratched the surface. If you have time in your hand, here is a list of things to see, do and eat.
SEE & DO
- Explore more Peranakan shophouses around Joo Chiat.
- Visit 112 Katong for six levels of shopping therapy…and airconditioning!
- If you prefer to shop at more authentic local markets, the Joo Chiat Complex and Geylang Serai Market have Malay textiles, arts and crafts, and souvenirs as well as local dishes for when you get hungry while shopping.
- To know more about Peranakan history and culture, visit Katong Antique House for a 45-minute tour with owner, Peter Wee.
- Another museum worth visiting is the Intan Museum. It is a private home museum owned by antique collector Alvin Yapp. You may also book an appointment for tea or dinner cooked by Alvin’s mother before the guided tour so you can also sample Peranakan dishes.
- For products that highlight all things Peranakan , Rumah Bebe along East Coast Road is the best place for a dose of culture.
- East Coast Park for a night stroll along the beach.
- Head to Alibabar The Hawker Bar for some booze to cap the night.
Katong is one those places that you should come hungry when you explore. Aside from 328 Katong Laksa, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, Boon Tong Kee and Five Star Hainanese Chicken which we got to try during our visit, here are more places that would surely satisfy your discerning taste buds.
- Buy a box of Puteri Mas Durian Puffs, swiss rolls and Nyonya kuehs by Chef Irene Lim using traditional recipes from her Nyonya mother.
- I love Otah. We had a taste fo this delicacy at 328 Katong Laksa but Nam San Otah is well-known for its Banana Leaf Mackerel Otah which everyone raves about. Each Otah is individually hand wrapped and freshly made daily.
- Sin Hoi Sai Eating House opens only in the late afternoon. We wanted to try the marmite chicken, salted egg cereal egg prawns and other dishes but we left before dark. We’ll definitely try this next time.
- This one I missed. If I had known there’s a Bak Kuh Teh resto in Katong, I would have ditched the laksa and gone straight to Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House. If you are a regular reader, yo know how much I love Bak Kuh Teh. It’s not a household name and a winner of the Singapore Prestige Brand for nothing. Sayang!
The nearest MRT stations are Paya Lebar and Eunos. Bus nos. 15, 16, 33, 155 take you to Joo Chiat Road while buses nos. 10, 12, 14, 32, 40 and 155 take you to East Coast Road. Cabs are also available or book Uber like we did when we went here.
Not fond of DIY tours? You can join one of these tours, and don’t forget to compare hotels, vacation rentals, rooms, or even homes for your trip before you go. And never leave home without Travel Insurance!