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Katong Singapore

Tanjung Katong in Singapore has had its original shoreline moved as a result of land reclamation.  It once fronted a seaside, has a distinguished history of settlement by an eclectic mix of races from both Europe and Asia and is now touted as a hub of the surviving Eurasian and Straits Chinese culture and tradition in the modern day Republic. Not far from Changi Airport, on the eastern side of Singapre Island, Katong offers a cuisine and culture that stands out depute the multiculturalism and fusion that is today's Singapore.

Who does recognise these very intimate items from a hair dressing table from  20th century Singapore?

Front beaded slip-ons.   The stitching is an art form that requires patience, a good eye and a creative sense of patterns.

Variety of snacks that echo fusion in preparation styles and use of local ingredients, drawing from on practices and recipes from South-east Asia, Southern China, Portugal, Holland and Britain.  There are baked, steamed, deep fried and bamboo leaf wrapped food, many using coconut milk, chestnuts, mung beans and Pandanus flavours.

Typical ware in a Straits Chinese kitchen, ranging from tiffin carriers to enamel coated pots and a Thai-styled steamed rice container.

Cantonese styled mooncakes and pig shaped biscuits.

The bridal chamber.

Peranakan curry laksa, with a more creamy soup and a variation of the multitude of laksas found in south-east Asia.
The version affectionately related to Katong originated from the Joo Chiat area by a vendor known as Janggut by the local Straits Chinese community - Mr Ng Juat Swee.   Such laksa is often best accompanied by the otak-otak, a fish mousse steamed with pandanus leaves (background to the upper right).

An outlet of Awfully Chocolate is located in Katong.
This has one of the most uplifting and flavoursome ice creams, cakes and sorbets in Singapore.
Suggested influences from China, Arabia and Thailand.

Mr. Francis Bernard, the son-in-law of the First British Resident of Singapore, Lt. Colonel William Farquhar, built a coconut plantation here in Katong.    This was followed by land purchases and developments by a series of characters now well embedded in Singaporean history -  Mr. Chew Joo Chiat, Mr. Thomas Dunman, Mr. Whampoa Hoo Ah Kay, the Little family and Mr. Thomas Crane.

The character of Katong transformed to that of large seaside bungalows and a wealthy suburb.. Ornate Straits Chinese mansions particularly were sited along Meyer and Mountbatten Roads.  Another significant group, the Eurasians, congregated in the Joo Chiat side of Katong after the Depression in the 1930s.   The forebears of the founder of the Republic of Singapore, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and those of former Prime Minister Mr. Goh Chok Thong, have also resided in the Katong area.  

The Straits Chinese come from a long line of ancestors beginning in the Malayan Peninsular with migrants from both Fujian and Guangdong Provinces of China in the tenth century AD.  The 2015 world-wide gathering of Straits Chinese takes place in Singapore later this year - 6 to 8 November for the 28th Baba Nyonya Convention, as organised by the Pernanakan Association Singapore.

Eurasians in Singapore can be Kristang (of Portuguese and Spanish descent), of Dutch or British colonial origins or more recently, arise from the mixed marriages due to the city state being  hub of significant commerce and immigration.  I did not get an opportunity to visit places or homes of Eurasian culture on my recent visit to Katong - many have also migrated overseas like to Perth Australia.   Eurasians of note include Mr. Benjamin Henry Sheares, a former President of Singapore;  national swimmer Mr. Joseph Schooling; Ms. Jean Danker, radio personality; Mr. Leslie Charteris, author and creator of novels with the character of Simon Templar, aka The Saint; Mr. Edmund W. Barker, former Cabinet Minister; and Mr. Daniel Shen-Yi Critchley, UK Ambassador Model for the United Colors of Benetton and GAP.

Many of the above photographs taken by me on this visit to Katong Singapore were shot inside the Katong Antique House at 208 East Coast Road.  The staff were most helpful and friendly in explaining the many facets of Straits chinese culture, crafts and lifestyle.


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