A Peranakan enclave in the East, Joo Chiat was crowned Singapore’s first Heritage Town in 2011. Along with the neighbouring Katong, the area is known for its stretch of Peranakan shophouses filled with diverse dining options and indie retail stores.
But long before Katong and Joo Chiat became the hipster hangout they are today, they were filled with coconut plantations and home to seaside retreats for the wealthy. In the early 20th century, the area developed into a residential suburb where a growing English-educated middle class, including Peranakans* and Eurasians, stayed. That’s when the rows of two-storey shophouses you see today were built!
*An ethnic group defined as native-born, with a mix of local and foreign ancestry. Though often used to refer to people of mixed Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage, there is a small number of Peranakan Indians known as Chetti Melaka.
Joo Chiat is named after Chew Joo Chiat, a wealthy Chinese land-owner and philanthropist who owned large plots of land in Katong, and was known as the ‘King of Katong’. What a title. Katong on the other hand—short for Tanjong Katong—is named after a now-extinct species of sea turtle. The word ‘Katong’ can also refer to “the rippling effect of a sea mirage” when looking at a shoreline.
Katong and Joo Chiat are rich in history — and even richer in food options and things to do! Just check these places out yourself.
328 Katong Laksa
Ask any local what’s there to eat in Katong, and there’s a 99.9% chance they will mention Katong Laksa. Famed for its thick and coconut-y broth, topped with prawns, beansprouts and cockles, 328 Katong Laksa has been a Singaporean favourite for the past 22 years. Visit its Katong outlet and see the walls of celebrities from all over Asia that have tasted the laksa that beat Gordon Ramsay’s. No, we are not kidding.
Location: 51 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770
Beach Road Prawn Noodle House
Don’t be shocked by the snaking long queues when you first arrive at the place. They have a very efficient serving system, which usually only takes a few minutes for your bowl of dry/soup prawn noodles to be served. Their soup is flavourful with a slight sweetness, umami-rich from being boiled with pork ribs and prawn shells. This place is a personal favourite! Pair your bowl of prawn noodles with some ngoh hiang, a common practice here in Singapore.
Location: 370 East Coast Road, Singapore 428981
Opening Hours: 7am – 4pm (Mon, Wed – Sun), Closed on Tues
This 80s-looking restaurant in a conserved shophouse serves authentic and traditional local food — nasi lemak rice steamed in a muslin cloth, and coffee made Nanyang-style with the kopi sock. It has a grilled shopfront, tiled floors and rattan chairs, complete with a vintage store sign. Truly capturing the essence of the old coffeeshops of Singapore.
Location: 458 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427671
Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah
Hand-making traditional popiah skins for over 70 years, this third generation-run eatery is bent on keeping the popiah skin-making legacy. Their handmade popiah skin is paper-thin, has a softer texture than machine-made ones, and can only last a day due to the lack of preservatives.
Learn about the history of popiah skin-making and try your hand at making your own paper-thin skins (or watch Michael, the pro) at their Popiah Making Workshop, while tasting their traditional Nyonya-style popiah!
Location: 95 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427389
Birds of Paradise
No stranger to long queues, this Michelin-recommended gelato boutique offers gelato flavoured with natural and botanical ingredients — fruits, flowers, pods, herbs, and spices. Other than their popular White Chrysanthemum and Lychee Raspberry gelatos, their menu also includes local flavours such as Pandan and Lemongrass Ginger. For those seeking dairy-free options, they have sorbets as well!
Location: 63 East Coast Road, #01-05, Singapore 428776
Apart from these recommendations, there is a lot more good food to try in the area — Madeleine’s Original Portuguese Egg Tart, Peranakan-Western fusion food at Baba Chews and classic nasi lemak at Ponggol Nasi Lemak, a local favourite.
The 1925 Brewing Co.
They brew their own beer!
What first began as a microbrewery and restaurant in a two-storey shophouse in the quaint neighbourhood of Jalan Besar, The 1925 Brewing Co. now has a larger brewery in Mandai that caters to hotels, restaurants and pubs. A strong believer in preserving their Singaporean Teochew heritage and culture, this restaurant serves modern Teochew dishes alongside its own craft beers. Forget burgers and fries, think Chicken Skin Chips and Garlic Fried Rice.
Location: 261 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427515
The name Forty Hands came from the idea that it takes 40 hands to produce a coffee from bean to cup. Grab a cup of specialty coffee to go, or spend your afternoon in this eclectic-styled cafe, munching on their Stinky Har Cheong Gai Waffle — shrimp paste fried chicken with sambal maple syrup and a sunny side up fried egg.
Location: 226 East Coast Road, Singapore 428923
Choice Cut Goods + Coffee
Combining specialty coffee, all-day breakfast and old-school (or new) vinyl, this music space is the place for music aficionados. Spend hours browsing through stacks of records, or enjoy coffee and craft beers while vibing to an impromptu vinyl jam session. On Saturdays, they feature a rotating roster of DJs curating their own nights.
Location: 446 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427659
Visit 7 Koon Seng Road, one of Singapore’s prettiest streets! Take photos against a backdrop of pastel-coloured shophouses that have been featured on the Instagram feeds of many, and admire the intricate detailing, motifs and tiles adorning these beautiful houses built in the 1920s.
Tip: Wear matching outfits with the shophouses to earn extra Instagram points!
Location: 7 Koon Seng Road, Singapore 426957
Rumah Kim Choo (Kim Choo Kueh Chang)
While you are not able to enter the houses along 7 Koon Seng Road, you can visit Rumah Kim Choo, a two-unit shophouse that houses a heritage gallery upstairs, and sells Peranakan collectibles on the first floor. Committed to preserving the Peranakan culture of the Nanyang, they host walking trails, private boutique tours, Peranakan Beading workshops, and Nonya Kueh sampling sessions for all to learn about the Peranakan culture.
Location: 111 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428801
An indie retail shop selling all things quirky and cat-themed, Cat Socrates can be described as cosy and all things good. I would know, I’m a regular. Say hello to their resident cat shopkeeper Zoo-zoo, which is either resting on the stacks of local literature or in his bed by the window. For the plant moms and dads, they sell an array of affordable ceramic and clay pots for you to plant your little babies in, to fit into the aesthetic of your home. For others, this is the place to shop for gifts or simply spend an afternoon surrounded by good-vibes, and good-vibes only.
Location: 448 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427661
Singapore Trading Post
Inspired by the East India Trading Company, Jo Harrison and Rob Pendergrast started Singapore Trading Post in 2013, selling one-of-a-kind homeware pieces reminiscent of Singapore’s colonial past. The vintage pieces are sourced from the East India Company’s traditional trading partners — India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam. Be on the lookout for large statement furniture like grandfather clocks and bronze statues to trinkets like vintage keys and an old pair of binoculars.
Location: 426 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427644
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