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Jalan Besar
Photograph: Anton Lim/ Singapore Tourism Board

The ultimate guide to Jalan Besar

There's more to do in this foodie wonderland than restaurant and café-hopping

Cam Khalid
Fabian Loo
Written by
Cam Khalid
&
Fabian Loo
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Jalan Besar simply translates to literally mean 'big or wide road'. How big is the neighbourhood, you ask? Jalan Besar is a tale of two former swamps – one by the Rochor River and the other by the Kallang River. Stretching between the two points, most of it has been reclaimed and now houses a myriad of wallet-friendly restaurants and cafés, as well as cool shops worth stretching a dollar for. It's also home to the Jalan Besar Stadium which has hosted some major sporting events. To get you started, here are some of the best things to see, do, eat and drink at one of the city's hippest district. 

RECOMMENDED: Ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods 

DO

Mud Rock Ceramics
  • Shopping
  • Rochor

Local makers Michelle and Seok run this ceramic studio creating functional and beautiful wares out of mud and clay. They run weekly beginners and intermediate ceramic workshops where you learn about the different techniques and intricacies of ceramics-making. 

  • Sport and fitness
  • Kallang

Break a sweat at the Jalan Besar Sport Centre. Jog around the stadium or take a dip in the swimming pool. It's also the home ground of football teams Hougang United FC and the Young Lions, and has hosted the Asian Youth Games in 2009, and the Youth Olympics Games in 2010, bringing many sports lovers their closest experience of the Kallang roar.

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  • Hotels
  • Rochor

Art Deco buildings from the colonial era line Jalan Besar, but the intimate 41-room The Vagabond Club along the stretch offers a Parisian boutique hotel experience on a grander scale – think shiny, bold rhinoceros that doubles as a reception desk, opulent banyan trees branching out from the shophouse’s pillars. For a stay, choose your level of opulence, starting with the Classic room. Lounge on a goose-down feather bed surrounded by mahogany furniture and yet more art pieces adorning the walls – you won’t even realise that the room’s short on space. 

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EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Kallang

Make your way to this kopitiam under a Hotel 81 on Foch Road for the neighbourhood's hidden gem: fried porridge. The zi char store is known for a couple of signature dishes like its KL-style Hokkien mee, pan-fried san lou bee hoon and the star of the show, the fried porridge. The idea came about the stall owners tried frying some leftover porridge. The dish you get served today has yam lending its gooey texture, bits of pork and topped with crispy fried shallots and lard. It is also served in the same claypot it is cooked it so it comes packed with smoky wok hei flavour. When it comes to indulgent comfort food, this one takes the crown. 

  • Restaurants
  • Rochor

With only one thing on the menu, this humble eatery still rakes in long queues every day. Its laksa gravy, cooked over charcoal, is light and not too spicy – that’s what the sambal is for. Stir it in if you want more heat in your bowl. Topped only with fishcake and plump cockles, you’ll polish off a bowl in under five minutes. 

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Swee Choon Tim Sum
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Rochor

Don’t be surprised to find a queue well into the early hours for a seat at Swee Choon Tim Sum. The 50-year-old establishment that's a hit with a younger, post-clubbing and night owl set occupies five ground-floor shophouses to keep up with the demand for their signature mee-suan kueh ($1/two), Portuguese egg tarts ($1.50/two) and custard-rich liu sha bao ($3.60/three).

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Kallang

Open daily till 4am, Chuan Chuan Le is your spot if you find yourself craving for Mala dishes and Sichuan cuisine late at night. Besides the usual dishes you might find at a Mala restaurant, you can also find a side menu of skewers. Think all sorts of meats and vegetables dusted in Sichuan spices and grilled till crisp. Need cheap beer to go with that? There's also a selection. If you decide to stick to the classic staples, that's all right too. Order the fried potato slices in Mala seasoning and sliced fish in hot soup for a late-night meal with your friends. The more the merrier!

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  • Restaurants
  • Kallang

Have your fill of Vietnamese street food at the first traditional Vietnamese barbecue restaurant in Singapore. Call it Little Vietnam if you please, the resto mirrors the hustle and bustle of its busy streets. This makes it a suitable backdrop for diners to tuck into its mouth-watering charcoal-barbecued gourmet meat marinated in various homemade Vietnamese sauces for that authentic taste.

  • Restaurants
  • Kallang

Opened in Erode, India by a dynamic husband-wife duo in 1960, Junior Kuppana takes pride in its delectable dishes and authentic taste. Its South Indian menu features Kongu Nadu cuisine with rice as its base and a collection of exotic recipes that combine sesame seeds, groundnuts, dry coconut, dry ginger and roasted turmeric. Prepare for a burst of flavours as you order up signature dishes like chicken pallipalayam, mutton pallipalayam, nalli gravy, and chicken and mutton biryani (seeraga samba rice).

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  • Things to do
  • Kallang

The hip three-in-one concept sits at the end of a row of industrial offices. There’s a restaurant specialising in skewered meats on the ground floor, a dimly lit bar on the second, and a studio rented out to designers on the third. But if it's about satiating your hunger, tuck into its grain bowls and gyudon, and wash it all off with ice-cold beers or a cuppa of coffee.

 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Rochor

This cake brand has grown to two takeaway outlets in the city, but you’ll want to retreat into its cottage-like Jalan Besar flagship for a sweet treat. The cakes here look bang on trend, but use recipes inspired by owner Shannon Lua’s grandmother. As-seen-on-Pinterest tiered cakes, frosted minimally between layers and dressed with foliage and fruits, are the hot order for weddings and birthdays. Butter Studio’s also a whiz at matching trendy ingredients. Milo and Speculoos? Check. Salted caramel and red velvet? We're sold.

DRINK

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kallang

Sometimes, it's better to keep things simple. Lucid's interiors of grey and white – with its milky countertops, concrete floor and metallic accents – make for an Instagrammable spot. But it's more than just a treat for the eyes. The minimalist hide-out also serves cups of quality brews by co-owner Andrea Tan, the first National Brewers’ Cup champion in Singapore. You’ll only find that coffee and a small selection of bakes are available. Espresso-based drinks (from $4) are pulled from beans of medium-dark roast, with hints of chocolate and citrus. 

  • Restaurants
  • Kallang

This minimalist coffee bar and roastery has just the right laidback vibe to unwind with a book and freshly poured coffee. Treat your tastebuds to the rich flavours of roasted beans from Latin America, artisanal teas and chocolates from the likes of Fossa Chocolate. It goes without saying the coffees are made with care.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Kallang

Beer geeks, prepare to freak out at the advanced selection of imperial stouts, IPAs, and sour beers by the likes of Mikkeller, To Øl, and Prairie Artisan Ales. There's also a more approachable range of easy-drinking pale ales and hopped lagers to ease into. For something to munch on, a small kitchen at the back dishes out snacks like coffee pork ribs, har cheong gai and cauli-poppers, all designed to pair with the pours. 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kallang

Follow the hipster past the huge covered metal gates and you’ll find Chye Seng Huat’s semi-secret (well, not so much anymore) compound in the Jalan Besar industrial zone. Headquarters of Third Wave coffee pioneers Papa Palheta, the two-storey coffee complex hides a coffee school and retail space on the second floor, while a full inventory of coffee gear dominates its ground floor café. Order an espresso made with its Nuts and Bolts or Terra Firma blends, or a procured single-origin to drink in the café.

SHOP

  • Shopping
  • Kallang

Indoor plants can improve the air quality, have psychological benefits, and make your workspace more inspiring. Need new plant babies? One of the newest nurseries in town, The Nursery Singapore has everything you need – from highly coveted plants to beautiful minimalistic planters.

  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Kallang

For a home makeover that’s perfectly in line with your taste, the Roger&Sons team can design new home pieces or give your existing furniture a facelift. The expert team works with all types of wood and other materials including metal, LED and mirrors, so they can even build you a hybrid piece if you want.

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  • Shopping
  • Pet shops
  • Kallang

From hobbyists to seasoned collectors, the impressive selection of ornamental aquarium fish at Oh My Fish is worth checking out. Find various species of goldfish, shrimps, guppies, tetras and more in the store and get mesmerised by all the colours. You can also find all your aquascaping needs at this store to build the perfect aquarium for your new pets. 

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Kallang

While Antea Social's range is simple – they mostly offer flavoured Oolongs – the process behind the making of each batch is careful and arduous. Their tea leaves are sourced directly from the producer whenever possible, and baked with essential oils (on a separate tray) for 12 hours. The tea leaves and oils then remain in the oven for up to a week, but this time-consuming process produces a batch of tea that can be re-steeped multiple times without losing flavour. Currently, the Oolong range includes flavours like rose, vanilla, mint, peach and more ($10 each), and the leaves come packed in an airtight glass bottle that's perfect for gifting or admiring on your own.

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  • Shopping
  • Kallang

Take a step back in time and learn craftsmanship the old-fashioned way: with your hands. With The General Co’s range of workshops, learn how to build terrariums, craft leather accessories, arrange bouquets and more. There’s also a retail space where you can pick up local design goodies, be they skateboard decks, quirky charms or handprinted tote bags.

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