The Peranakans are a unique heritage made up of Chinese immigrants that intermarried with the local people living in the Malaya Straits during the time of British colonisation. This mix of cultures formed a distinct identity that makes up a large part of Singapore's culture and history - Here are 5 ways you can live like a Peranakan in Singapore and experience this unique culture for yourself.
Peranakan snacks are some of Singaporean's favourites - most iconic are the colourful kueh kuehs or cake-like desserts that can be either savoury or sweet. Learn to recognise your Kueh Dadar from your Ondeh Ondeh at Glory Catering along East Coast Road. A more widely available commercial option would be Bengawan Solo, a cake shop with many outlets where you can find these kuehs and more.
Delve deeper into the Peranakan culture by exploring various Peranakan-themed museums and institutions in Singapore.
The Peranakan Museum at Armenian Street is a good place to start learning about the Peranakans. Housed in a former Chinese school building, this museum is dedicated to showcasing the Peranakan heritage across Southeast Asia, and contains one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Peranakan artifacts in nine galleries.
For something more experiential, book a tea session at The Intan in Joo Chiat - this small museum is also the owner's home and where he displays all the Peranakan artifacts that he has amassed over the years. It is a chance to ask all the questions you want and get up close to items commonly found in a Peranakan household, and of course an opportunity to sample some of the classic kueh snacks as a part of the tea session.
The Katong Antique House along East Coast Road is another Peranakan house that you can visit, this one owned by Mr Peter Wee, fourth generation Peranakan and President of the Peranakan Association in Singapore. Its old walls are covered with all sorts of Peranakan heirlooms and paraphernalia and the man is able to tell you just about anything you want to know about the Peranakan history in Singapore.
Another small museum worth seeing is the Baba House, an old preserved Peranakan-style shophouse in the Chinatown district that was gifted to the National Museum of Singapore and showcases permanent and rotating exhibitions in relation to the Peranakan culture. Prior booking is required to visit the Baba House!
A distinctive feature of the Peranakans is their clothing - in particular that of the women who are traditionally garbed in Sarong Kebayas, intricately embroidered long sleeved tops paired with a floral print batik sarong skirt, and accessorized with unique hand-beaded shoes and gold jewelry.
Little Nyonya Batik is one of several shops in Singapore that retails handmade Peranakan clothing and even offers an online shop for those located outside of Singapore. You could make an appointment to pop by her boutique at Hotel Royal in Newton as well.
For a small group of people who want to try their hand at the craft skills Peranakan ladies (known as Nyonyas) learned as part of their upbringing, check out the classes in hand beading by Rumah Bebe. A Peranakan descendant who realised that the art form of beading was dying out with the older generation, Bebe Seet taught herself how to bead Peranakan shoes in the 90's and is eager to pass on this knowledge to future generations.
Singapore has several heritage ethnic districts, and the Peranakans of yesteryear were often found in the eastern Joo Chiat and Katong area, which is where you'll find many of these establishments listed in this article today. Singapore Tourism Board has a recommended walking trail for Katong which is a quick and easy way to cover the highlights of the area whether Peranakan or not.
One place to consider stopping at is Koon Seng Street - this residential area is the 'postcard Peranakan' street often found in guidebooks about Singapore that showcases some very well-conserved Peranakan shophouses.
For those who want a touch of Peranakan in their homes, check out the Peranakan Tile Gallery along Telok Ayer Street which retails a range of art nouveau style majolica tiles and patterned floor tiles salvaged from demolished shophouses that you can use to give your home that touch of Peranakan. Replica tiles are also available if you are on a budget.
If you have a higher budget and are looking to furnish your house with custom-made Peranakan furniture that has a modern twist, Arthur Zaaro might be what you are looking for.
If you want to experience this historic district for yourself, explore Singapore with a rich Peranakan twist by staying at the Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy. Conveniently located right in the middle of the Peranakan district, you are just a quick walk away from all the Peranakan attractions, as well as just 15 minutes away from downtown Singapore and other major tourist sights.
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