Make bao, sip rice wine and #supportlocal on a Jalan Besar foodie jaunt with JalanJalan.me online guide

JalanJalan.me offers curated online guides that showcase hidden food gems and small businesses in neighbourhoods such as Jalan Besar.
JalanJalan.me offers curated online guides that showcase hidden food gems and small businesses in neighbourhoods such as Jalan Besar.PHOTOS: CHIN SIN HUAN, JALANJALAN.ME

SINGAPORE - Halfway through a food-centric tour of the Jalan Besar neighbourhood, I realise that three hours are barely enough to scratch the surface.

Out of the 36 stops listed on the JalanJalan.me website for Jalan Besar, we have covered only six - all food places - in that timeframe. And there is no room left in my stomach.

I am on a media tour arranged by the folks behind #savefnbsg, an independent restaurant coalition that came together during the circuit breaker. They started JalanJalan.me in December. It is supported by Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board.

The site offers curated online guides that showcase hidden food gems and small businesses - both old and new - in neighbourhoods.

Besides Jalan Besar, the four other districts are Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Chong Pang and Clementi. Sample half-day itineraries are also available. You can follow the map pins on the site or go through the four categories - Do, Eat, Shop and See.

Our tour focuses on "Eat". The food crawl starts at Wanderlust Hotel in Dickson Road.

To gear up for the journey, we are each given a bottle of refreshing kombucha from home-grown brand Le Vyr, and get to pick old-school snacks from the hotel's "mama shop".

We head to Reiwa Soba, where we slurp delicious buckwheat soba. The coffee shop stall in Kelantan Road is run by a Japanese couple who have lived in Singapore for 10 years. It is not quite the type of food I expect to find at a coffee shop, but that makes the experience all the more unique.

Dip the soba into the seaweed and bonito dashi topped with chilli oil, then crack an onsen egg into the sauce to take the dish to another level. Pair the soba with chicken, pork or go for the more unusual option of green mango salad.

At Berseh Food Centre, we dig into juicy salt-baked chicken from a stall called Multi Food Supply.

Owner Kim Tan gives us an extra treat of bak kwa, which was what her family's business started selling 50 years ago. The stall still sells bak kwa, along with an eclectic mix of yakitori, Hainan-style satay and mala xiang guo.

Next, we walk to Chin Sin Huan cafe in Jalan Besar, which is run by the second-generation owners of Tanjong Rhu Pau and where a bao-making session awaits.

I brim with excitement at this rare opportunity, only to realise quickly that my bao-pleating skills are laughable.

While the staff deftly measure, fill and pleat each bao by hand quietly and methodically, I'm just trying to make sure the lotus paste filling in mine does not spill out.



Bao from Chin Sin Huan cafe in Jalan Besar. PHOTO: CHIN SIN HUAN

Nevertheless, the owners are encouraging and generously pack our buns with other dim sum items to go.

Another business putting its modern spin on tradition is W Rice Wine in Cavan Road, which specialises in premium rice wine and wine lees.

I'm a big fan of the brand and now that I see for myself exactly how small-scale its production is, I can understand why its products sell out so quickly.

Colour, clarity and aroma are characteristics that determine an excellent brew, and the sample we try ticks all the boxes.

The final stop is The Tiramisu Hero cafe in Tyrwhitt Road, one of the early birds in Jalan Besar's bustling cafe scene. It is known for its tiramisu that comes in handy jars. I still prefer the original version, but you can now get more novel flavours such as honey soju, rum and raisin, and yuzu.

At this point, my tummy is bursting.

There are plenty of other food hot spots in the area, including restaurant-bar Druggists, seafood restaurant Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong and barbecue restaurant Red Eye Smokehouse - all listed on JalanJalan.me.

The Jalan Besar itinerary I did was tailored for the media, though I feel it should be made available to the public. But there are other interesting itineraries on the website.

The next time I'm in Jalan Besar, I'll be sure to check out the Insta-worthy shophouses in Petain Road, wood specialist Ban Heng Long Trading and pottery shop Mud Rock Ceramics.


JalanJalan.me

What: Online guides of neighbourhoods

Admission: Free

Info: JalanJalan.me website

On the website, look out for the "Huat" section. Here, selected #JalanHuat locations feature a QR code that you can scan on-site to enter a contest that runs till April 30. The top prize includes a staycation at Wanderlust Hotel and a version of this Jalan Besar trail.

Eating Air is an occasional series on local tours. For more stories on exploring Singapore, go to the SG Go Where website.