Food · Singapore

Beyond Chinatown

In a few previous posts, I’ve mentioned going to Chinatown with my friend Hailey and visiting the Chinatown Complex for breakfast. But I realized that I’ve never been beyond the first few streets surrounding the Chinatown MRT stop. Sure, I’ve been on Smith Street, Pagoda Street, and Temple Street. However, I have not gone beyond those.

So yesterday (June 27), I decided to take a mini adventure after lab. First stop, I went to one of the many touristy shops on Temple Street and bought 6 Axe Oil and 6 Tiger Balms for my friend, who’s coming to Singapore in a few weeks. Those medicinal ointments made my bag smell like a Chinese medicine cabinet. It wasn’t a bad scent, but I was discreetly trying to cover the top of my bag so other people around me couldn’t smell it. Fun fact: Haw Par Villa, which I visited on a separate solo adventure, was created by the makers of Tiger Balm!

Afterwards, I visited Littered with Books, an independent bookstore in the nearby neighborhood Duxton Hill. Littered with Books was only a five-minute walk from the Chinatown Complex- much closer than I thought! Duxton Hill was a cute and charming neighborhood; there were lots of nice restaurants and stores selling wares ranging from cooking supplies to pet supplies (and not to mention books!).

Exterior of Littered with Books

The bookstore was actually littered with books (heh), as in, there were books everywhere in the store. In the bookshelves, on top of bookshelves, on the walls, upstairs, even under the stairs! Their decorations were pretty cute too. I saw a Game of Thrones one, and I snuck a picture of it (even though pictures aren’t allowed in the store).

The North remembers.

After I bought a book (or two…fine, I bought three), I went to Maxwell Food Centre, which was pretty much across the street from Duxton Hill. I wanted to try the chicken rice from Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which is arguably the most famous/most delicious chicken rice in Singapore. But when I got there, they were closed (sobs).

Maxwell Food Centre

I ended up getting chicken rice from a nearby stall- it was pretty good, but probably not as good as Tian Tian would have been.

Only $4.50!

While I was eating my not-Tian Tian chicken rice, I sat in front of a hawker stall selling something called “oyster cakes.” I had never heard of oyster cakes before, but there was a picture of Anthony Bourdain with an oyster cake in front of the stall. If Anthony Bourdain visited this place, it must be good, right? Heck, it was only $2, so I got one.

Looks like a cookie, tastes like nirvana

I am so glad I got it, because it was AMAZING. Like actually, one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. The oyster cake was basically oysters mixed with ground pork and veggies surrounded in dough, then fried. I don’t know what else the aunty and uncle put in this thing, but it tasted like heaven. It was crispy on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. The ratio of oyster + pork to dough was juuuust right. As of right now, oyster cakes are my new favorite food. Anthony Bourdain was right. I should go back some day and get another one….

Yeah, I’m definitely going back. When my friend comes in two weeks, I’ll take him to Maxwell to show him a legit hawker center (and get another oyster cake).


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