John Newton experiences Katong
Steeped in history, Singapore’s Katong district is a mouth-watering food enclave, where locals and foreigners alike flock for Peranakan cuisine – an amalgam of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. As John Newton discovered, many dishes are known for being very difficult to prepare and the closely-guarded recipes are often treasured as family heirlooms.
The most popular dishes – made from only the finest ingredients – are Ayam Buah Keluak, Babi Pongteh, Bakwan Kepiting, Itek Sio and Sayur Lodeh.
It’s a gourmet’s delight – and gets you away from the hustle and bustle in downtown Singapore. Don’t go past Kim Choo’s. Her Nonya dumplings have been a mainstay in Singapore’s colourful food culture for more than 40 years. She says her traditional cooking is preserved in an art form, which is unyielded by time and untainted by modernity.
Once an idyllic seaside retreat, where the upper classes built grand villas and bungalows along were common features along the coast, Katong was also home to local communities living in humble kampungs who depended on fishing and farming until the end of the 1960s. After World War 1, the growing prosperity of Malaya and Singapore attracted an influx of immigrants which led to the eastward expansion from the city centre areas. Gradually, Katong was transformed into a permanent residential suburb for various communities, the Eurasians and Peranakans. Following World War 11 and the independence of Singapore, the physical landscape of Katong underwent many changes. A major development was reclamation along the East Coast from 1966, where land was created for East Coast Park, the East Coast Parkway and high-rise public and private housing. Today’s Marine Parade Road marks where the shoreline used to be. Despite a big influx of new residents and shopping malls, the area has continued to retain its laid back charm and character of old.
* The writer was a guest of Far East Hospitality at its Peranakan-inspired, Village Hotel Katong. The 229-room property reflects the strong Peranakan heritage of the Katong and Joo Chiat district in Singapore. Formerly the Paramount Hotel and Shopping Centre, Far East Hospitality took over operations in 2012 and re-launched it last November after a S$30 million facelift.
For more details on the property and others run by Far East Hospitality, go to: www.stayfareast.com
* Far East Hospitality is also a partner of Seafood International, one of the top seafood restaurants on Singapore’s East Coast.
Read more of John Newton's Singapore experience made possible by the assistance of Far East Hospitality.
Far East Hospitality