Singapore locals don’t need a passport to visit the subcontinent. They just head to the city’s vibrant, spice-scented Serangoon area.
When the lieutenant Governor of Java, Stamford Raffles, arrived in Singapore in 1819, he brought with him 120 assistants and soldiers from the Indian subcontinent. They took up residence in the city’s Chinatown, where Raffles had carved out a street for Indians. But slowly these immigrants drifted across the Singapore River to the Serangoon area, attracted by money to be made rearing cattle and racing horses. Fresh influxes of Indian immigrants followed them, converging on the district seeking work.
By the turn of the 20th century, this area – once sprawling with dense jungle and plantations – had turned into a trading hub for the city’s Indian population. To this day, Little India reigns as the emotional, cultural and commercial nerve centre of the local South Asian community with its riot of colours, cacophony of sounds and an overpowering assortment of scents.
It is a world unto its own, with a host of traditional trades still being practised today by on-street vendors and shopkeepers who have kept their lifelines firmly latched to that settlement for generations.
Guarding the entrance of Little India is the Tekka Centre, a utilitarian building noted for its bustling market – stalls tumbling with fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, meat and a heady concoction of ground spices.
Sitting above the wet market – the local term for a fresh-food market – are shops packed with souvenir items, quaint knickknacks, decorative brassware, Chinese antiques, bedspreads, textiles, garments, watches, shoes, luggage and appliances, all crammed into one treasure trove.
But for many the star attractions of Little India are the Tekka Centre’s hawkers at the corner of Serangoon and Buffalo roads. Inside, a cornucopia of gastronomic delights caters to the dietary constraints of Singapore’s many religious persuasions – at very good prices.
Celebration of Arts
48 Serangoon Road, Rochor.
+65 6392 0769.
Isah Mohd Yusof Curry Spices and Provisions
01-166 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
+65 6294 4320.
Popular Garment Store
02-114 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
+65 6297 7114.
Sithi Vinayagar Company
67 Serangoon Road, Rochor.
+65 6293 3405.
Vanessa Beauty Salon & Henna Artwork Creations
05-02 Tekka Mall, Serangoon & Sungei Roads, Rochor.
+65 6291 7229.
Eat & Drink
01-297 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Haji Johan Muslim Food Temasek Indian Rojak
01-319 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Heng Gi Roasted Goose and Duck Rice
01-406 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Maimoon & Sons
01-328 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Mubarak Ali Kopitiam
01-322 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Prata Saga Sambal Berlada
01-323 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
01-353 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
Sri Kamala Vilas
01-16 Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Rochor.
+65 6291 1164.
Sri Vijaya Restaurant
229 Selegie Road, Rochor.
+65 6336 1748.
Source: Qantas The Australian Way October 2007
Updated: August 2008