What better place to venture to during Lunar New Year than Chinatown, Singapore’s largest historic district? The BiTES team had a tough time trying to narrow down the sights and munchies: we meet an amazing craftsman, sample handmade traditional delights, and stroll along hip Keong Saik Road. There’s also free Wi-Fi (Wireless@Chinatown), lion dance performances (Sat 6.45pm, Pagoda Street), and trishaw rides ($49, from the visitor centre).

CHINATOWN COMPLEX MARKET & FOOD CENTRE (335 Smith Street)

The Good Beer Company (#02-58)
Do craft beers pair with hearty hawker food? Beermeisters Daniel and Esther will give you their fave nosh tip-offs (we also speak to them in Blogger Hot Seat). Swing by their other outlet Smith Street Taps (#02-62) for a tap takeover by Siren Craft Brew in early Feb (from $13/pint). Mon-Sat 6-10pm. fb.com/goodbeersg

Pan Ji Cooked Food (#02-78)
Sachima or sar kay mah are sweet blocks of Cantonese honey crackers ($2.60/4.80/6) made of fluffy fried batter, bound together with honey. Made fresh by Mr Pan, the entire process of kneading the dough to frying and coating takes about nine hours. You’ll think twice about going back to the factory-made versions. Daily 9am-5pm

Joe Pork Porridge . Raw Fish (#02-81/82)
The raw fish ($2.50/3.50/5) from this 1971 stall is fresh, clean, boneless and served with fried shallots, ginger strips, sesame oil, sesame seeds and spring onions. Joe has a single stall with a slicing machine just for this. Order porridge from the other: we had the century egg and pork porridge ($3/3.50/4.50). Tue-Sun 7am-1pm

Lian He Ben Ji Claypo t Rice (#02-198/199)
A.K.A. Three Sisters’ Claypot Rice. Call before going to avoid a 45-minute wait. Raw rice is steeped in each claypot for the full development of earthy flavours over a charcoal flame. Go for the mixed claypot rice which includes lup cheong (the liver variety included), chicken and salted fish ($5/8/10/12/15/20). You control the amount of black sauce and oil. Fri-Wed 4.30-10.30pm. Tel: 6227 2470

 

KEONG SAIK ROAD

Before it was hip, Keong Saik Road was home to brothels in the 1960s, operated by the Sio Loh Kuan secret society. They later made way for hotels in the 1990s, with the opening of Hotel 1929 and Keong Saik Hotel to name a few. Right now? Lively, for all the right reasons: a liquid buffet at Wine Mansion (No. 20), tipples and nosh at The Study (No. 49), as well as artisanal bakery Bread and Hearth (No. 18), and smoothie and juice bar Afterglow (No. 24). What remains the same are the two and three storey shophouses which were given conservation status in 1989.

Potato Head Folk (No. 36)
No resemblance to their Bali beach club sibling, but the three-storey Folk is iconic too. It’s filled with sculptures, playful murals and jolly food. Tuck into gourmet burgers (try Baby Huey, $20, and the Naughty Fries, $10) and cocktails at Three Buns on levels one and two, chill at Studio1939 Lounge with its leather couches and vintage seats, or ascend to herb garden, bar and alfresco space The Rooftop Garden to take in the sights. Wonder why there’s ?? on the building? Read on www.pttheadfolk.com

Tong Ah Eating House (No. 35)
The original owner of No. 36. Relocated across the road after the family sold the shop to PTT. Under the yellow awning, munch on Super Crispy kaya toast ($2) or order from their tze char menu. You might hear scraping sounds too–it’s just the uncle removing the chaotah bits of bread with the lid of a condensed milk can. Try some old schoolturned- hip butter kopi since you’re here. Daily, alt. Wed off 11am-2.30pm, 5-10pm. Tel: 6223 5083

Kok Sen Restaurant (No. 30/32)
Named after second-gen owner Wong Kok Sen, the restaurant is a good #SG50 candidate with its old school decor along a street fast filling with new faces. Try the spicy big prawn hor fun (from $15): patrons testify it’s “chock-ablock with taste, the stuff of cravings”; and also the claypot yong tau foo (from $13). Expect a long wait during peak hours. Tue-Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm. Tel: 6223 2005

 

HONG LIM MARKET & FOOD CENTRE (531A Upper Cross Street)

Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee (#02-17)
The Singapore Hawker Masters logo features on this champ’s signboard. Uncle’s been frying delicious noodles for over three decades with his secret blend of condiments. Add cockles ($1) or egg ($0.50) to your plate ($3) for a flavour boost. Mon-Sat, excl. PH 6am-4.30pm

Hiong Kee Dumplings (#02-37)
Satisfy your bak zhang craving with one of Hiong Kee’s power-packed rice pyramids. We opt for the Hokkien-style one containing pork, mushroom, chestnut and salted egg ($3.30) every time; but there are the chicken (from $2.70), Nonya ($2.50), belly pork ($3.30), and sweet kee chang versions too (plain $1.30, red bean $1.50). Mon-Sat, excl. PH 8.30am 7.30pm

Tuck Kee Ipoh Sah Ho Fun (#02-40)
There’s a line even before lunch; and when noon rolls around, it’s a snaking queue–most order Tuck Kee’s crayfish Ipoh hor fun ($6.50), which comes with sweet fried shallots, green veg and prawns. Add 50 cents for takeaway or extra fibre. Some customers pre-order in bulk and drop by to collect their office #desklunch. Mon-Sat 11.15am-2.30pm

 

CHINATOWN POINT (133 New Bridge Road)

Once a sprawling complex of curio, pawn and jewellery shops, the 22-year-old mall now houses big names Uniqlo (#B1-16 to 20) and Poulet (#02-40), with a volunteerrun library@chinatown (#04-12) brimming with Chinese arts and culture materials. New: Halal-Chinese Segar Restaurant (#B2-39 to 41), Japanese hotpot Pecori An (#02-39) and Song Fa Bak Kut Teh (#01-04).

Le Cuisine (#B2-34/36)
Helmed by local celebrity chef Daniel Koh, signatures include lamb shank braised in rose wine and red grain marinade ($16.50) and Six Sense mushroom soup ($7.80. Private dining room with customised menu available (from $50/pax). www.lecuisine.com.sg

Tamoya Udon (#B1-48/49)
This Japanese-run outlet makes thick and chewy Sanuki udon from scratch. Tuck into kake udon ($5.80/7.80) or try the kama-tama udon which features a beaten raw egg for full flavour ($6.60/8.60). There’s pork, beef and curry too; and seasonal specials. Pair up with some tempura (from $1 for okra) for some crunch. tamoya.com.sg

 

AROUND CHINATOWN

Thye Shan Medical Hall (201 New Bridge Road)
Founded 60 years ago, this traditional Chinese medicine hall and clinic’s flagship products include 13 medicated oils and balms, and freshly brewed herbal teas. Traditional wooden drawers hold over 500 types of Chinese herbs. On weekends, there are herbal soup tastings. Daily 9am-9pm. Tel: 6223 1326

Pek Sin Choon (36 Mosque Street)
This 1925 tea merchant is now run by the fourth generation. House blends: Unknown Fragrance ($15/box of 10 pkts, $53/tin of 50 pkts) is a staple pairing with bak kut teh, and the fruity Charm of Buddha Palm ($50/128 for gift boxes) consists premium tea leaves from China’s Anxi province. Tea blending’s still traditionally done, and leaves are painstakingly wrapped by hand in paper packets. Mon-Sat 8am-7pm. www.peksinchoon.com

The Tintin Shop (28 Pagoda Street)
Who remembers this 1929 comic by Belgian cartoonist Hergé? We followed the adventures of the young cartoon journalist and his terrier into this shop. Don’t just stop at the cute figurines, go for porcelain homeware ($12-$50 for the Blue Lotus series) or purchase the boxset ($230, all 24 adventures) for your bookshelf. tintin.sgstore.com.sg

Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium (70 Eu Tong Sen Street)
The de facto stop for all things Chinese. You’ll find anything from traditional medicine (dried seahorse, anyone?) to classic furniture here. Head to the exhibition area (L4) to check out the Chinese Art Porcelain Fair (till 9 Feb). www.yuehwa.com.sg