231 Bain Street, #02-25, Singapore 180231
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12pm to 8pm, Sun 1pm to 7pm
448 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427661
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 12.30pm to 9.30pm, Closed on Mon
Peranakan Culture in Singapore: A Brief History
- Chinese traders began arriving and trading in Southeast Asia from the 10th century.
- From the 13th century, many Chinese sailors and traders began settling in Java and the Malay Peninsula, and intermarried with local Malay women. The marriages resulted in a blend of Chinese and Malay cultural elements that would eventually form the unique regional Peranakan culture.
- However, while Peranakan is commonly used to refer to the Straits Chinese population, the word Peranakan doesn’t have any racial or religious connotations. In fact, there are Indian Peranakans and Jawi Peranakans and Eurasian Peranakans, and the common denominator amongst these cultures is their unique fusion of regional cultural practices with their own.
- Singapore’s Peranakan population is mostly of Chinese ancestry.
- Today, most Peranakans have been assimilated under increasingly controversial regional racial profiling practices, identifying as Chinese, Malay, Indian, or Others.
What is Peranakan Culture
There’s no singular marker of Peranakan culture (for the purposes of this article, we’ll take Peranakan to refer to Singapore’s Chinese Peranakan culture). In fact, this writer has trawled through several blog posts and web pages written by Peranakans and while they agree on the influence of the rich Malay culture on their heritage and cultural practices, some reflect on their cosmopolitan mindset and largely Western education while others highlight traditional superstitions and practices such as hiding unmarried adult daughters from public sight.
Peranakans are also known as Babas and Nyonyas, honorific terms meaning Mister and Madam respectively. This recognises their status as Straits-born children, and differentiates them from the large wave of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the 19th century. Because of their status as early immigrants and their predominantly Western education, Peranakans could acquire civil service jobs easily, and many of them served as middlemen between the British and the local non-English-speaking population. This helped them acquire wealth and assets and it’s why so many crazy rich Singaporeans are Peranakan.
Many Peranakan families are Catholic today, but some still worship gods and deities from different religions as per the surprisingly traditional practice that honours the diversity of religions and cultures of the Straits.
Fun fact: Did you know that Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was Peranakan?
Peranakan cuisine is also known as Nyonya food as culinary duties traditionally fell to the women who would spend hours in the kitchen grinding spices and making gravies. It’s full of regional influences both in culinary skills and ingredients used. The rempah (spiced sauces) are characteristic of Malay cooking, while ingredients such as rice noodles and pork reflected Chinese influences. Peranakan cooking is available mostly at Peranakan specialty restaurants, However, nyonya kueh and dumplings can be bought at street food stalls or in mall shops. Here are some acclaimed eateries to patronise while you’re here:
Candlenut is an oily nut not unlike macademia. It’s predominantly used in Southeast Asian curries and stews, as the high oil content allows the base to thicken and become creamier, giving the region’s cuisine their distinctive richness. Candlenut restaurant, on the other hand (sorry for going off-topic), is Singapore’s only Michelin-starred Peranakan food establishment. Helmed by Chef Malcolm Lee, the restaurant serves Peranakan classics refreshed for the contemporary palate. Only fresh ingredients are used, so you can be assured of quality. However, a meal at Candlenut doesn’t come cheap, and for cultural purists, the updated recipes may not satisfy. That said, gourmet seekers will undoubtedly find dining at Candlenut a unique experience.
17A Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249676
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 12 to 3pm and 6-10pm, Fri-Sat 12-3pm and 6-11pm
Violet Oon Singapore
Violet Oon is Singapore’s authority on Nyonya cuisine. Cutting her teeth on journalism, she quickly found her niche in food reporting, and eventually started her own food magazine in the 80s. Her passion in food seeps through every aspect of her life, and eventually led her to start the Violet Oon chain of restaurants in Singapore. Now with four outlets each with its own special menu, the business is still growing steadily, and Violet’s children contributing to new ideas relevant for the modern connoisseur. Diners love the consistent quality of dishes such as Buah Keluak Ayam, Dry Laksa, and Kueh Pie Tee, though they note that the some of the flavours may be acquired tastes. Again, this is a pricier option, but a good, authentic way to sample Peranakan food in Singapore.
Violet Oon Singapore
Various outlets including ION Orchard and National Gallery Singapore
Check website for addresses, menus, and opening hours
IVINS Peranakan Restaurant
For those on a tighter budget, IVINS Peranakan Restaurant offers great bang for buck. Traditional Peranakan dishes such as Udang Masak Nanas (prawns cooked with pineapples in tamarind gravy) retail for less than $10, and the communal nature of Peranakan dining means you can place orders for several dishes and plates of rice, and share them amongst your companions!
21 Binjai Park, Singapore 589827
Opening hours: Fri-Wed 11am to 3pm and 5pm-9pm, closed on Thu
Singaporean Peranakans have mostly been absorbed into the country’s racial categories and mainly converse in English today, but each community (Chinese, Chitty, Jawi) have their own Malay-based creoles inflected with other languages and dialects such as Hokkien, Portuguese, Arabic, and Tamil.
Peranakan Culture in Singapore: Where to go
Itching to learn more about Singapore’s Peranakan culture? Here are the places committed to educating both locals and travellers on Peranakan culture in Singapore.
Rumah Kim Choo
Rumah Kim Choo (Kim Choo House) hosts workshops and activities such as food tastings and kebaya fittings to provide an immersive experience for visitors. They also have an in-house boutique and gallery for all your souvenir needs.
109 / 111 East Coast Road, Singapore 428800 / 428801
Check out the activities available and book your slot here.
What’s a visit to Singapore without the mandatory photo of gorgeous pastel-coloured Peranakan shophouses? Take a moment to admire the colourful tiles adorning the facades of the buildings and snap as many photos as you will. It’s free!
Koon Seng Road, Joo Chiat
Katong Antique House
Katong Antique House belonged to Baba Peter Wee until his passing in 2018. He was the ex-President of the Singapore Peranakan Association and was very committed to preserving Peranakan tradition and educating the public about Peranakan daily life. The Katong Antique House is testament to his efforts. It contains multitudes of everyday objects donated by Peranakan families and offers an insight into the lives of Singapore’s Peranakan population back in the day.
208 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428907
Opening hours: Daily 11am to 4.30pm by appointment only
Phone: +65 6345 8544 (call for appointments)
The Baba House is managed by the National University of Singapore. It once belonged to Peranakan shipping tycoon Wee Bin, and its exterior and interiors have been carefully preserved to reflect a typical Peranakan home of the time. The original furniture and household objects are still intact and on display. However, curious visitors are required to book an appointment in advance for a heritage tour conducted by historians.
157 Neil Rd, Singapore 088883
Visits by appointment only. Book in advance here.
Book an immersive experience with us and learn more about Peranakan culture in Singapore through heritage site visits and mini food tours!
1. Plan Ahead
2. Inform Someone of Your Plans
3. Arrive in the Day
4. Separate Your Cash
5. Dress Conservatively
6. Common Sense is Key
7. Deploy Lies
8. You Know What You’re Doing
9. Be Sensitive
10. Safety Over Money
Singapore isn’t a cheap travel destination, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save while you’re here! Hotels in Singapore are notoriously pricey, but the city’s clean and unique hotels are here to give the big chains a run for their money. Here are the top 10 hostels in Singapore for maximum comfort at minimum price.
I want comfort and privacy
Adler Hostel is a boutique hostel housed in an art deco shophouse in the middle of Chinatown. Just footsteps away from Sri Mariamman Temple, the hostel is decked in contemporary chic. Equipped also with a tastefully decorated lounge, it certainly feels more like a boutique hotel than a hostel. The curtained pods provide privacy and there’s even a fancy coffee bar to provide you with liquid energy.
Located in the city centre, hipstercity is an independent luxury hostel for budget travellers. You’ll get burned out from bunking with ten other travellers in close proximity sometimes, and hipstercity offers you a break from that at prices lower than hotels. Their single beds come with full-length privacy curtains that basically compartmentalise your space so you can lie back and recharge. If you’re travelling with your partner or friend, they offer double loft beds too! The hostel is also equipped with a cafe that morphs into a movie lounge by night!
Ever wondered what it’s like to be on a spaceship? Located mere footsteps away from Kallang MRT station, Spacepod@com provides clean, comfortable pods you can hide away in and live out your interstellar fantasies! Travellers are happy with the novel sleeping experience, convenient location and FREE laundry between 7pm and 7am. They weren’t too pleased with the single toilet shared by all guests.
6 Jalan Ayer, Singapore 389144
Phone: +65 8183 5636
The Atlas Station
Another space-themed hostel, The Atlas Station provides individual sleeping pods wired up with electricity! The capsules could have come right out of a space opera (dun dun dun dun duh-dun dun duh-dun), and you can even choose whether you want a front (peasant) or side (nobility) entrance.
The Atlas Station
424 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218670
Phone: +65 6291 5113
I want good value for money
Situated right in the heart of Bugis, Coral Hostel is a fantastic choice for heritage lovers on a shoestring. Travellers love the hostel for its squeaky clean interiors, comfortable beds, and superb location. Its beds are fitted with individual reading lamps! However, the rooms are quite small and there is no common space for socialising, so you’ll have to weigh your priorities!
Atlantis Pods @ Bugis
Atlantis Pods @ Bugis is situated along the bustling Tan Quee Lan Street in Bugis, a prime location for travellers looking to visit the Arab Quarter. With Bugis MRT only a short walk away, getting around the country is incredibly convenient too. Each pod is equipped with a personal reading light, electrical socket, hanger and fold-down table, so you can use the energy saved from climbing up and down the bunk beds for sightseeing instead. FREE towels and toiletries are available, so you can save precious space for souvenirs!
The Bohemian is located just a block away from Chinatown MRT station. The hostel is great for travellers looking for a central spot to put down their weary heads. Light sleeper? Select their soundproof pods equipped with a personal reading lamp and an international electrical socket! The receptionists are kind and helpful, and there is a FREE one-way departure shuttle service to the airport. No need to worry about clogging up the trains with your huge backpack!
OSS Backpackers Hostel
OSS Backpackers Hostel is located in Lavender, surrounded by a diverse range of food establishments. The rooms may be simple, but the price and convenience more than makes up for it. Travellers loved the hostel for its cleanliness, great location, comfortable beds, and decent breakfast for the price. Be sure to check out Mustafa Centre just 600m away to stock up on travel essentials!
I want to meet people
Happy Snail Hostel
Happy Snail Hostel is located away from the hustle and bustle of the city in the quiet neighbourhood of Bukit Merah. It’s a mere 15-minute commute to town with the perks of homeliness, camaraderie and a true immersion into Singaporean living. The rooms and decor may by simple, but the spirit of travel more than makes up for it. Travellers love the common space, free tea and coffee, comfortable beds and the communal spirit. It seems that Happy Snail Hostel manages to attract travellers who are looking for forge friendships, so you might just find a fellow snail to roam the streets with!
Beary Best! by a beary good hostel
Beary Best! by a beary good hostel occupies a restored shophouse in the heart of Chinatown. It sits just a stone’s throw away from major attractions and a wide range of food establishments, making it the perfect choice for travellers interested in food and culture. Beary Best! by a beary good hostel also has a lounge and pantry for travellers to get to know their newfound friends over a round of video games and some coffee! The hostel even has a roof terrace if you prefer the sun and fresh air.
The Food Place
Singaporeans are the masters of metaphor. Take, for instance, “Singapore has a rojak culture” or “Your English very rojak”. “Mixed” might be a good word, but it doesn’t pack as much power, and dare we say, flavour.
Well, this rojak in question is actually a Southeast Asian salad. There are two types of rojak sold in Singapore, the Indian Rojak and the Chinese rojak. The dish sold by Chinese hawkers comprises fruits, vegetables, fried dough fritters and tofu skin, doused in sweet, thick gravy made from fermented shrimp, and topped with a sprinkling of peanuts. Hence, “rojak” meaning “mixed” in Singlish.
As much as we’d heartily recommend this dish, it definitely isn’t as healthy as the vegetable-based salads you’ll find at Western diners. But it’s worth a try for its sweet-savoury umami goodness. Trust us. Singaporeans swear by Brothers Rojak, situated in Clementi, about 30 minutes west of the city centre. It’s worth a shot if you’re venturing out of the built-up areas for a sight of everyday life. Beware of the queue at Brothers, though. Expect to wait 30 minutes for a plate of rojak during peak hours.
449 Clementi Ave 3, #01-211, Singapore 120449
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9.30am to 9.30pm, closed on Sun
Nearest MRT: Clementi
The Coffee Place
Singapore has a specialty coffee roaster, and many third-wave cafés buy their beans from them. Common Man Coffee Roasters started out with a mission to make great coffee accessible to everyone. They’ve since moved beyond serving the average Joe an average cuppa joe (#sorrynotsorry) and morphed into an established institution in the local coffee scene. Their coffee is strong and aromatic with a good depth of flavour, but be warned that brunch prices are a little steep for the common man or woman.
Common Man Coffee Roasters
22 Martin Road #01-00, SINGAPORE 239058
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7.30am to 5pm, Sat & Sun 7.30am to 6pm
Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru
The Historical Place
The Katong Antique House is a one-of-a-kind “museum” displaying Peranakan artefacts. Owner and former President of the Peranakan Association, Peter Wee, has sadly passed away, but his legacy lives on in the house. The Peranakan Association has taken over the upkeep of Katong Antique House to preserve the Peranakan culture in a city obsessed with economic progress. Drop by for a taste of a bygone era and to learn more about the daily lives of the Peranakans in Singapore. Be sure to make an appointment prior to your visit.
Katong Antique House
208 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428907
Opening hours: Daily 11am to 4.30pm by appointment only
Phone: +65 6345 8544 (call for appointments)
The Market Place
What do Singapore’s insomniacs do at 3am? Go shopping, of course. Mustafa Centre is near and dear to all restless night owls burdened by 9 to 6 life. The departmental store is open 24/7 and is perpetually filled with people on bargain hunts. Whatever it is that you’re looking for, you’ll very likely find it at Mustafa. Think cameras, vacuum bags, shower gels, eggs, and even gold bars. It’s absolutely worth taking the time to stock up on travel essentials there.
145 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207704
Opening hours: All day, all night
A city break doesn’t have to mean endless malls and restaurants. If you’re tired of Singapore’s top-rated attractions (we won’t hate you), why not take a trip to the countryside for some fresh air and fun? It might be surprising that there are actually many different types of farms in Singapore, specialising in a wide range of farmstock, from vegetables to animals. It might not be Stardew Valley, but it makes for a pleasant day out.
Bollywood Veggies is a vegetable farm located in Kranji. Set up by its founders, Ivy Singh-Lim and Lim Ho Seng, in 2000, it has established itself as one of the most well-known farms in Singapore. The farm is filled with signs containing information about the wide range of plants available, but keep a lookout for signs making jibes at Singaporean society and politics. If you’re dropping by, schedule a pit stop at the Poison Ivy Bistro, where dishes made with plants and vegetables from the farm are served along with homemade drinks.
Bollywood Veggies / Poison Ivy Bistro
100 Neo Tiew Road, Singapore 719026
Opening hours: Wed-Fri 7am to 5.30pm (Bistro opens at 8am); Sat, Sun & PH 7am to 6.30pm (Bistro opens at 8am); Closed on Mon & Tue unless PH
Jurong Frog Farm
Jurong Frog Farm might not be in Jurong anymore, but it still deals in frogs, large American bullfrogs, for the matter. Now run by Chelsea Wan, daughter of founder Wan Bock Thiaw, the farm is diversifying its revenue streams with educational tours and frog-centred dishes.
Jurong Frog Farm
56 Lim Chu Kang Lane 6, Singapore 719164
Opening hours: Sat, Sun & PH 9am to 5.30pm; Tue-Fri by appointment only; Closed on Mon
Hay Dairies Goat Farm
Hay Dairies is the first goat farm in Singapore. Its founder, Hay, began farming poultry and pigs before moving on to goats when the government shutdown pig farming. The first generation of goats were imported from Minnesota in the USA, and the current stock is the tenth generation. While goat’s milk met with resistance amongst Singaporeans initially, they have slowly warmed up to it. If you’re new to goat’s milk, this is a great opportunity to sample some as Hay Dairies produces and bottles them fresh at the farm!
3 Lim Chu Kang Lane 4, Singapore 718859
Opening hours: Mon, Wed-Sun 9am to 4pm, Closed on Tue
Click here for tour information.
Qian Hu Fish Farm
Singaporean children will always have fond memories of Qian Hu Fish Farm. Don’t be terrified to see children running around with nets. They’re going for the fishes. Qian Hu Fish Farm offers activities to keep everyone entertained. If you’d like to experience old-school Singapore, opt for the Long Kang Fishing Experience. Arm yourself with a net and scoop up as many fish as you can in 30 minutes. If you’re visiting from abroad, you can’t bring them home unfortunately. You could give them away if you like!
Qian Hu Fish Farm
71 Jalan Lekar, Sungei Tengah, Singapore 698950
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am to 6pm, Sat & Sun 9am to 7pm
Visit their website for information on available activities.
Kin Yan Agrotech Farm
Kin Yan Farm prides itself on pesticide-free farming. The organic farm supplies produce such as mushrooms, wheatgrass, edible cacti, and leafy vegetables to local supermarkets and food establishments. Their mission is to provide wholesome, organic food to the people. To learn more about the farm, its philosophy and its produce, join them on a 1-hour tour for just $5.
Kin Yan Agrotech Pte Ltd
220 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718830
Opening hours: Daily 9am to 5pm
Where to Stay
gardenasia provides a resort experience right in the Kranji countryside. Sadly, the Kranji area is located quite far beyond the city, and travelling to and fro itself can be exhausting. Spending the night in rural Singapore is sure to rejuvenate and energise weary travellers. We’re impressed by the wide array of facilities available at gardenasia. The rooms are fully equipped with state-of-the-art AV systems and exude contemporary chic, and there’s a pool right outside for your daily swim. For your meals, head to the bistro for dishes created mostly with fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding farms.
Do also check out the education centre where classes are conducted for the general public to learn more about the agricultural industry in Singapore.
240 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718898
Opening hours: Daily 10.30am to 10.30pm
Skip the hotels or hostels in town! For a immersion in Singapore’s agricultural countryside, it’s well worth shelling out a few more dollars for a night or two at Gallop Farm Resort. Go to sleep in the peace and quiet of rural Singapore and wake to the sounds of nature. It’s the perfect way to relax and recover during a city trip with tight schedules.
10 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718813
Opening hours: 24 hours; Office: Daily 8am to 9pm
“There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.”—Ron Swanson
We all know about the English Breakfast, the Irish Breakfast and the Big Breakfast. We’re creatures of routine, and most of us probably have a go-to breakfast food, even if it’s black coffee. Instead of cereals or hearty meats, Singaporeans tend start the day with heavy meals. Without further ado, here’s the Singapore Breakfast in all its forms.
1. Kaya Toast with Soft-Boiled Eggs
The cornerstone of the Singapore breakfast, kaya toast is fast becoming a popular breakfast food abroad. A generous spread of kaya (sweet coconut jam) coupled with a thick slab of unsweetened butter turns plain old toast into a smooth, melty and absolutely wicked breakfast dish. Although kaya toast is good enough to be had on its own, it’s usually served in a set alongside soft-boiled eggs. Yes, you guessed it. As weird as it sounds, once you’ve cracked the eggs and added a generous dash of salt, pepper and soy sauce, you’ll pass the kaya toast through the gooey mixture and put it in your mouth. It’s a firm favourite amongst Singaporeans and Malaysians, and you can find them in any good coffee shops near your accommodation.
2. Roti Prata
Prata is the quintessential Singapore breakfast dish. Before Singaporean children learn to stomach spicier and heavier breakfast foods, a breakfast outing will most likely consist of roti prata. Fortunately for mamak stalls, Singaporean children hardly grow out of their prata love. Just ask any local for a list of their favourite breakfast or comfort food, and I’ll bet you’ll hear about prata. Prata is a piece of dough lovingly (or frantically during busy hours) stretched and smacked onto a hot griddle. The result is a thin slab of crispy, chewy and savoury dough that goes superbly with fish, mutton or veggie curry, or sugar for those less inclined to spicy breakfasts.
3. Economic Bee Hoon
The heaviest and heartiest breakfast food you can get in Singapore is the economic bee hoon. The name is as much of a mouthful as the dish. Fried in the early hours of the morning and served with an assortment of fried stuffs along with a generous dollop of sambal chilli, the economic bee hoon is the driving force behind Singapore’s economic growth. Okay, bad joke. But seriously, the queues are filled with paper pushers every morning.
4. Chwee Kueh
Chwee Kueh literally means “water cakes” in Hokkien. Made of water and milled rice, the aromatic cakes are served with generous helpings of chye poh, or preserved radish, turning it from plain Jane to culinary bombshell. The best chwee kueh is a careful balance of bite, sweetness and saltiness, and many Singaporeans will top it all off with a side of sambal chilli for even more flavour. It’s a hearty breakfast dish without the heaviness of economic bee hoon.
5. Nasi Lemak
Singaporeans are pretty open-minded when it comes to meals. If it’s available at a certain time, it qualifies as the corresponding meal. You won’t be hard-pressed to find locals converging at a hawker centre for a plate of nasi lemak complete with sides at the crack of dawn. The fragrant rice is boiled with coconut milk and pandan leaves and served with cucumber slices, a fried egg, ikan bilis, peanuts, and a meat option (chicken wing, small yellowstripe fish, or otah). This is sure to fuel you with enough energy for half a day.
6. Carrot Cake
A plate of piping hot (yes, hot) carrot cake is worth 30-minute queues for many Singaporeans. Don’t take me at face value. The “cake” is made with white radish and rice flour, and friend with garlic, preserved radish, and eggs. For a sweeter alternative, choose the black version which involves sweet soy sauce. Many places only serve carrot cake in the morning, so it’s safe to say that this is a favourite Singapore breakfast dish!
Last but not least, visit the nearest kueh stall with a hamper bag and lug an assortment of colourful snacks home for breakfast. Wikipedia classifies kueh as snacks or desserts, but we beg to differ. While they can certainly be consumed during the mid-afternoon slump or after dinner, these sugary kuehs sure provide a good jolt to the system after an 8-hour long fast.
Done with breakfast? Here are the top 5 Singapore foods you should get for lunch!