The soap dispenser of our kitchen sink was broken; so Katherine and I headed to Balestier Road in search of replacement parts, our go-to area for household lighting fixtures, floor tiles and bathroom and kitchen accessories. Balestier Road connects 2 thoroughfares: Thomson Road at one end and Serangoon Road at the other after passing the Central Expressway.
We parked our car at the Thomson Road end and walked from there, and was intrigued when we chanced upon a signboard detailing Balestier Road as a Heritage Trail – we have been here so many times but didn’t know about this fact.
Apparently the road was named after Joseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore in the 1830s. The Balestier Trail map offered a glimpse into the history of the area, and listed several the key sights, many of which we have passed over the decades without knowing the significance of them. The numbered highlights on the map:
- Art Deco Shophouses
- Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple
- Balestier Point
- Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses
- Kim Keat Road
- Pre-war Terrace Houses
- The Former Shaw Malay Film Studios
- Traditional Shophouse
- Balestier Market
- Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
- Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple
- Single-storey Shophouses
- The Church of St. Alphonsus (Novena Church)
- The Senior Police Officers’ Mess (SPOM)
Balestier Road is lined with old pre-war shop houses, interspersed with small multi-story commercial and residential buildings, creating a vibrant and colourful neighbour. Eateries are sprinkled along the whole stretch of the road, which is home to a few well-known chicken rice and Bak Kut Teh (peppery pork soup) stalls.
Being at the Thomson Road end, we headed to Noi’s on nearby Jalan Datoh, a noodle haunt that we have patronised over 20 years. A bowl of the Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面) serves up al dente flat noodles (like tagliatelle) with minced pork and mushrooms in a dark, spicy vinegar sauce topped with fresh prawns and a slice of crispy dried fish. Noi will inevitably surface in any debate about the best Bak Chor Mee in Singapore; its fare is nothing fancy but tasty comfort food, delightful when washed down with the fresh lime juice, particularly on that hot and humid afternoon.
After our lunch, we spied that the queue at the overwhelmingly popular Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah (龍發豆沙饼) shop across the road from Noi’s was relatively short, and decided to get in line for its bean-paste pastry puffs that come in either the sweet or salty version.
The premises of Loong Fatt is actually a coffee shop harking from the olden days, with white marble-top tables, wooden chairs, completed with white and jaded-green classic tiles from the 60s. The aged walls are adorned with nostalgic photos of days gone-by, and the coffee-making station still harbours traditional brewing paraphernalia that is rarely seen nowadays.
It was fascinating to see the staff at work, rolling and kneading the dough and filling them at lightening speed, and to finally see the golden brown pastries emerging from the ancient oven, their lovely aroma wafting through the shop. Anxious to sample our acquisition, we ordered coffee and there and then, each wolfed down a piping hot pastry. The sweet Tau Sar Piah was delicious and worth the 30-minute wait, and a steal at 70 cents for a piece of edible history.