From celebrity-backed bak kut teh to Bib Gourmand hawker stalls, these places offer the best food in the Balestier and Whampoa area.
Balestier was named after Joseph Balestier, the first American consul to Singapore in 1837. Unlike Donald Trump, he actually drained the swampy land and turned it into a sugarcane plantation, and the area gradually prospered. Warehouses were set up along Sungei Whampoa to process the harvest, and wealthy families built elaborate shophouses around Balestier Road. Religious and cultural landmarks followed, including Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple, and the Malay Film Productions movie studio.
Besides the omnipresent lighting shops on Balestier Road today, the neighbourhood is a haunt for local dishes including chicken rice, bak kut teh, and tau sar piah. Numerous eateries here specialise in them, and some have gone on to become household names.
Other dining establishments in Balestier and Whampoa have carved out a niche for themselves. Chuan Yang Ji does mutton with northern Chinese flavours, while Nhung Kitchen sticks to authentic banh mi. Lor mee specialist Xin Mei Xiang has a branch here, and Whampoa Makan Place serves a broad spectrum of hawker food, including Michelin-recommended Hokkien mee and fish head bee hoon. For bicycle fanatics, there’s Wheeler’s Yard cafe, which occupies a former warehouse along the river. Check them out below.
(Hero and featured images credit: Founder Bak Kut Teh Cafeteria 发起人肉骨茶餐馆 / Facebook)
11 places for the best food in Balestier and Whampoa
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Mutton is the star at Chuan Yang Ji. Here, the protein is presented northern Chinese style: dunked in hotpot, braised with chilli, skewered and grilled with considerable amounts of cumin, stuffed in dumplings and fritters, and turned into a broth for ramen. Adventurous eaters might take to the offcuts – grilled mutton genitalia, anyone? – but the familiar dishes are just as captivating.
(Image credit: Chuan Yang Ji)
Among the many bak kut teh sellers in Balestier, Founder stands out for having its walls entirely plastered with fading photos of celebrity patrons, many posing with the man who started the brand, Chua Chwee Whatt. Chua was initially a pig farmer in Choa Chu Kang who started experimenting with the dish in his spare time, before delving into the restaurant business in the 1970s. His strikingly peppery broth is made with fresh meaty pork ribs, herbs, and spices, then served with rib meat that slides off the bone. Eat it with you tiao and salted vegetable, which is slicked with lard.
(Image credit: Founder Bak Kut Teh Cafeteria 发起人肉骨茶餐馆 / Facebook)
Hong Kong’s seedy underbelly forms the inspiration of this casual eatery and bar. Decked out in scenes from the film series “Young & Dangerous,” the street level replicates a 1980s-era cha chann teng, while the basement evokes the territory’s street vibes with dim lighting and retro chairs. On the menu are traditional Cantonese fare including roast meats, XO carrot cake, and curry beef brisket, to be washed down with draft beers, sake, and whisky.
(Image credit: Jiang 蔣先生 Cantonese Asian Tapas / Facebook)
Other than chicken rice and bak kut teh, Balestier is also famous for tau sar piah, and some of the best examples can be found at Loong Fatt Eating House. Founded in 1948 by Lee Wang Long, the bakery still makes the Teochew pastry by hand, resulting in flaky, buttery layers that crumb apart to reveal its sweet mung bean centre. Besides sweet and salty versions, Loong Fatt also sells custard puff, buttercream Swiss roll, and pandan cake.
(Image credit: @feedmethatnow / Instagram)
When it comes to chicken rice in the area, arguments can be made for favouring Loy Kee instead of the more famous Boon Tong Kee. For one, it is less touristy, which results in shorter queues and quicker service. The signature is also arguably better: the steamed chicken is consistently juicy and tender, and the rice appropriately oily and deeply flavoured. The restaurant has since grown its menu to include Cantonese dishes, including a lovely roast pork and char siu.
(Image credit: Loy Kee Best Chicken Rice Singapore / Facebook)
Xin Mei Xiang began life in 1973 as a lor mee stall in Old Airport Road Food Centre, and has grown to six locations around Singapore. Now run by the founder’s son, the signature dish boasts a thick yet silky gravy that coats pork belly, braised egg, and fried fish, backed by a heady aroma of garlic. The gravy is also used to flavour more modern creations such as crispy noodle lor mee.
(Image credit: 新美香卤面 Xin Mei Xiang Lor Mee / Facebook)
Balestier Point has seen better days, but Nhung Kitchen makes a trip there worthwhile. The Vietnamese eatery puts all its cards on banh mi, which has a crusty exterior and an airy crumb, providing contrast to fillings of smooth pate and crunchy vegetables. Nhung Kitchen has also expanded their menu to include grilled chicken rice (com thit ga nuong), spring rolls, and barbecue pork with rice vermicelli (bun thit nuong).
(Image credit: @london.lady.uk / Instagram)
East Asian food dominates in Balestier, but for a change of pace, there’s Tandoori Corner. Opened since 1998, the restaurant specialises in North Indian classics like butter chicken, tandoori lamb chop, palak paneer, and chicken vindaloo, to be paired with fragrant slabs of garlic naan. Come in a large group as portions are generous, but if dining alone, the tender mutton biryani is a good option.
(Image credit: @heichuanhuili / Instagram)
Together, Whampoa Food Centre and Makan Place make up one hawker centre, but they are spread across three blocks and separated by a road. They are home to two new entrants to this year’s Michelin Bib Gourmand list – Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon, and Singapore Fried Hokkien Mee – joined by other notable stalls including Mat Noh & Rose Authentic Ginger Fried Chicken Rice, Balestier Road Hoover Rojak, Duck Porridge, Deep Fried Carrot Cake, and Whampoa Soya Bean and Grass Jelly.
(Image credit: @george.kooi / Instagram)
From a hawker stall at Whampoa Market to a full-fledged restaurant, Whampoa Keng has become a destination for flavourful fish head steamboat. The signature dish can be ordered with pomfret, red grouper, and Spanish mackerel, which cook in a light and nourishing broth over charcoal. Their zi char items are also done well, including har cheong gai, ngoh hiang, marmite pork ribs, and the braised Famous Street Tofu.
(Image credit: WhampoaKeng / Facebook)
Wheeler’s Yard brings some respite from the bustle of Balestier Road. Parked on the banks of Whampoa River, the establishment took over a large warehouse, kept its industrial look, and outfitted it as a bicycle-themed cafe with quality coffee and brunch food. It’s a walk from the thoroughfare – the best way to get here is by pedalling – but fish and chips, chilli crab pasta, and hamburg rice bowl await, followed by a coffee doughnut: milk coffee poured into a doughnut bowl with Nutella, then finished with cinnamon sugar.
(Image credit: Wheeler’s Yard / Facebook)
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This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore