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Singapore offers a perfect place to make a winter escape

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-04 07:21

Singapore offers a perfect place to make a winter escape

Rooftop swimming pool of Hotel Jen Orchardgateway in Singapore. [Photo by Yang Feiyue / China Daily]

A melting pot

After my belly is full I spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the Tiong Bahru neighborhood, which is said to be the oldest public housing estate in the country.

The neighborhood, however, is now one of the hippest places in Singapore, where the quaint shophouses have become hot spots for the young, Yat tells us.

For those who have an eye for history and culture, the neighborhood also has some landmarks from the past, including the Qitiangong Temple which is almost a century old.

What I find interesting is that the name Tiong Bahru actually means new cemetery, because it used to be a burial ground. It is hard to imagine the dramatic changes, with old and new buildings standing next to each other.

For one born and bred in Southeast China's Fujian province, I feel a sense of familiarity when I visit the Katong and Joo Chiat areas, where one can see traces of the charming Peranakan culture.

The area used to be home to the Straits Chinese community, which came into being when early Chinese immigrants married local Malay women, says Yat.

The area, only a 10-minute drive from downtown, is full of colorful two-story shophouses and terrace houses with facades featuring intricate motifs and ceramic tiles.

The neighborhood now harbors popular foodie destinations, including modern cafes that sit next to old-fashioned coffee shops selling laksa, dumplings and other delicacies.

We drop by the Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant, which has been serving authentic Peranakan cuisine in the Joo Chiat area since 1953.

The diner has an idyllic atmosphere and serves traditional cuisines that are considered too troublesome to cook.

Ayam buah keluak is a dish one must try. It features the big black seed of the buah keluak fruit and chunks of chicken stewed together.

Its delightful herbal taste complements the chicken and the bean itself is chopped up and mixed with minced meat, offering an springy texture.

It takes a lot of work to prepare this simple-looking but tasty dish.

"The black bean is poisonous and is used to kill rats in some countries," says a chef with the restaurant.

"So, we need to first cover the beans with volcanic ash, then wash and steam the beans until their toxicity is gone, and mix the flesh with meat and put the mixture back into the bean shell."

The ngoh hiang (deep fried parcels of pork), nonya chap chye (mixed vegetables) and otak otak (fish meat tofu) which we order all offer a pleasant and exotic flavor and give you a better understanding of the local cuisine.

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