Singapore: A Foodie Tour of Chinatown

Singapore’s historic Chinatown is a vibrant mix of old and new. Colonial shop houses, restored and painted in candy hues, are home to traditional stores and cool cafes. The streets bustle with tourists looking for cheap colourful souvenirs as well as locals going about their daily business. You’ll find temples, markets and lots of opportunities to eat.

shop houses singapore chinatown

There’s no better way to explore Singapore’s Chinatown than just having a wander, unless that is, you are lucky enough to have a local food blogger give you a personalised guided tour of all her favourite foodie haunts in the area.

food tour of singapore chinatown

Maureen from Miss Tam Chiak is a Nuffnang blogger, just like me, (but unlike me, she’s actually a pretty big deal and a very busy lady). Our respective regional offices got us in touch with each other (I love having ‘people’) and Maureen generously offered to show us around, feed us the good stuff and make us fall in love with Singapore even more. Spending time in a city as a tourist is lots of fun, but getting to know it through a local’s eyes can’t be beaten. I’m so privileged to belong to an international community of bloggers like Nuffnang, which means that I can meet up with a fellow blogger on another continent and hit it off immediately because we have lots in common.

Spending time in a city as a tourist is lots of fun, but getting to know it through a local’s eyes can’t be beaten.

Tong Ah Eating House

We started with breakfast at Tong Ah Eating House which is famous for it’s coffee and toast. This little no frills cafe has been running for over 75 years and is a favourite with the locals for breakfast.

Tong Ah Eating house Kaya toast Singapore

Kaya Toast, Soft eggs and Kopi at Tong Ah Eating House

We enjoyed some Kaya* toast with thick slabs of butter and dipped it in our soft eggs and kopi (coffee). I’m not a coffee drinker, but made an exception because I like to try everything at least once when I’m travelling. *Kaya is a delicious sweet coconut jam, search for it in your local Asian grocer, you can thank me later.

The Tong Ah Eating House was previously located in the local landmark building that now houses the very trendy Potato Head Folk. Maureen tells me the Tong Ah family sold the building for something like $7 million and moved in right across the road. I think this building must win the most Instagramed award in Singapore, I sure see a lot of it on my feed.

Potato head folk singapore

Potato Head Folk once home to Tong Ah Eating House

Singaporeans are food obsessed and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had the highest number of food bloggers per capita. The one bonus of this is that no one gives you a second look when you pull your camera out to take that primo breakfast shot.

Maureen from Miss Tam Chiak singapore food blogger

Maureen from Miss Tam Chiak shows us how to get the perfect food flat lay shot

local sketching in singapore chinatown

Cintia and Emma from My POppet in Singapore

Chinatown Complex

Next we wandered over to the Chinatown Complex, an old school shopping center which houses a wet market in the basement, a mixture of random shops and the largest hawker center in Singapore with over 200 food stalls. You’ll have a hard time eating from all the places here, but we sure gave it a crack.

I love visiting food markets and supermarkets wherever I go, it gives you such an insight into daily life. Emma particularly enjoyed trying to identify all the unusual edibles on sale. There was a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, herbs, seafood and even some little hopping amphibians.

Chinatown complex singapore - wet market

It’s called a wet market because the floors are hosed of for cleaning and are always wet. No ‘Slippery When Wet’ signs here, so watch your step.

Chinatown complex singapore - wet market

Chinatown complex singapore - wet market

Chinatown complex singapore - wet market

Chinatown complex singapore - wet market

It was time for lunch and a cool drink, so we headed upstairs to the food center. It’s tricky to bag a table during busy times but the diners turn over quickly so you won’t have to wait too long. I’ll be writing a dedicated post about all the food we ate in Singapore, but you can get an idea of what we had for lunch from the video. Emma had her usual – chicken rice and a fresh fruit juice.

Lime juice - singagpore food

Refreshing lime juice – a bargain at around $2

Chinatown complex singapore - food center

Emma enjoys her Chicken Rice. We also tried Laksa, Rojak and Chwee Kueh

Maureen was amused that I found things that were ubiquitous to her so interesting. I was fascinated at the way washing is hung out of windows on bamboo poles. With space at a premium in the city, it’s a clever way to get your washing dry (as long as you don’t mind your neighbours knowing what colour undies you wear). I have so many photos of washing, it may even get it’s own post, lol.

hi rise apartments sinagpore washing

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

One of the highlights of our tour was a visit The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located in the heart of Chinatown, just adjacent to the Chinatown Complex. You could be mistaken for thinking this temple is hundreds of years old, but in fact it’s a recent addition to the area and was only built in 2007.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, singapore

It happened to be Vesak Day, an annual Buddhists holiday to commemorate Buddha’s birthday. The temple was very busy with people queuing to pray an give offerings. I was dressed a little immodestly to walk through the temple, but luckily the temple volunteers provided me with a wrap around skirt and shawl to wear for our visit.

Walking tour of chinatown singapore

chinatown temple maureen

Emma took this photo of Maureen and I. I’m wearing a shawl and wrap around skirt provided by the temple staff.

The temple was beautifully decorated with pink blossoms especially for Vesak Day, which was really spectacular.

Vesak Day The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple singapore

Vesak Day The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple singapore

Vesak Day The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple singapore

 The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple singapore

Chinatown Street Market

No day in Chinatown is complete without wandering around it’s street markets. It was fairly quiet in the morning which is a good time to go if you have a stroller or young kids, but for a little more ambiance, head there in the evening to see the streets lit up with lanterns and fairy lights. You’ll find no shortage of hawker style street food on Smith st, also known as food street, it’s open every night till late.

chinatown street market singapore

chinatown street market singapore

chinatown street market singapore

You’ll find lots of colourful tat souvenir shops and stalls, as well as one of the only places to find a traditional bamboo steamed Indonesian desert called Putu Piring. Its a delicious, and not so sweet, coconut cake filled with a sugary center. The stall is unassuming and easily passed by so keep your eye out for it at the end of Trengganu Street.

Bamboo putu Piring

We finished our little food filled adventure with some refreshing mango shaved ice. You’ll find lots of shaved ice and dessert shops around Singapore, and after a long morning of pounding the pavement, you can bet that a cool ice based sweet goes down a treat. Emma thoroughly approved.

mango shaved ice - singapore

Maureen and Emma enjoy a giant Mango Shaved Ice dessert.

We had such a great morning getting to know Maureen, trying lots of new foods and talking shop, (I was super interested in learning more about life as a blogger in Singapore). Maureen had to run off to a meeting and a very nice swimming pool was calling to us, so we bid Chinatown adieu and took the MRT back to our hotel.

Essential Info

Getting there:
Chinatown MRT station – North East Line & Downtown Line

Visit:

Tong Ah Eating House
35 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089142
Open daily 6:30am – 10pm

Chinatown Complex – Wet Market & Food Hall
335 Smith St, Chinatown Complex (U/C), Singapore 050335
Open daily 8:00am – 10pm

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
288 S Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840
Open Daily 7:00am – 7:00pm including Public Holidays
FREE ADMISSION

Chinatown Street Market
area of Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Street, Smith Street (food street), Singapore
most stalls Open daily 11am – 11pm

Putu Piring Stall
Stall No. 2 Trengganu Street, Singapore 058471
Daily 12pm to 8pm

Other places of interest in Chinatown include:

Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
244 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058793

Maxwell Road Hawker Center

1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184, Singapore

Maureen from Miss Tam Chiak is available for custom guided food tours of Singapore – contact her here

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Food tour of Singapore Chinatown with map

3 Comments

  • Swah says:

    Ahhhh yum this is making me miss Singapore and it’s delicious food so much! Looks like you guys had a great time 🙂

  • Stacey says:

    Hello Cintia, your pictures of Chinatown are absolutely gorgeous! I used to live in Singapore and am so glad to see that you had such a great time 🙂

    • Cintia @ My Poppet says:

      Thanks, my only regret is not having enough time to explore more. There is so much to see and do in Singapore!

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