One of the quieter heartlands, Hougang is home to a historic park, craft beer pubs and an IG-worthy architectural gem.
With buzzing neighbours like Serangoon and Punggol, Hougang might seem a little quiet at first glance. Sure, this north-eastern town might not have monstrous malls or numerous dining enclaves but if you’re looking for something laidback, this hood is right up your alley. Peppered with serene parks and hipster cafes, this underrated neighbourhood will take you away from the weekend busyness in places like Robertson Quay and Tiong Bahru.
Guide to Hougang: Eat and drink
Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre
Purveyors of nasi lemak, this one’s for you. The combination of aromatic rice, crispy chicken wings, crunchy ikan bilis, smoky otah and dollop of spicy chilli served on brown oil paper is the epitome of Singapore’s hawker culture. Nasi lemak is always a hit! Feel free to add on classics sides including fried fish, luncheon meat and fish cake.
Ponggol Nasi Lemak, 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534721
Selegie Soya Bean
After a savoury, hearty meal at Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre, nothing hits the spot like a good bowl of sugary dessert. Hougang might not have a giant mall that offers countless dessert parlours, but it’s home to Selegie Soya Bean. Known for its silky smooth beancurd aka tau huay, this old school dessert will satisfy your sweet tooth. Pro tip: Get a couple of fried dough fritters (otherwise known as you tiao) to dip into your beancurd – there’s nothing more satisfying than breaking the porcelain-like tau huay with a golden brown you tiao.
Selegie Soya Bean, 1002 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534740
A stone’s throw from Kovan MRT, this laidback cafe offers brunch classics. We’re talking about eggs benedict, croissants and sammies. For a neighbourhood spot, the craft beer selection isn’t too shabby either.
Lola’s Cafe, 5 Simon Road, Singapore 545893
Ci Yuan Hawker Centre
Though not as popular as other hawker centres (read: Chomp Chomp and Newton Food Centre), this place is worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity. Housed within a community centre, there are a total of 40 stalls here. Highlights include carrot cake, char kway teow, chicken rice, nasi padang, nasi lemak and Hainanese curry rice. For something different, look for stalls that dole out delish Korean fried chicken, Thai plates, Japanese rice bowls and pasta. Here’s a fun fact: Under the Entrepreneurship Programme by operator Fei Siong Social Enterprise, folks can sharpen their knives by running a hawker stall where they will be paired with veteran older hawkers. Cool, right?
Ci Yuan Hawker Centre, Ci Yuan Community Centre, 51 Hougang Avenue 9, Singapore 538776
Ice Edge Cafe
This cafe serves typical Western fare like pasta and pizza, but its gelato has to be the highlight. Made in-house, the flavours range from the usual to the unusual: Pistachio, durian, cotton candy and salted egg. Pair your scoop with buttermilk waffles (also made in-house) or tuck into desserts like chocolate lava cake and tiramisu cake.
Ice Edge Cafe, #01-10, Simon Plaza, 2 Kovan Road, Singapore 548008
Before sprouting up all over Singapore, Nakhon Kitchen’s first branch actually opened in this heartland area circa 2008. This no-frills Thai joint is big on zesty flavours, with dishes like tom yum, phad Thai and mango salad. Just be prepared to wait, as a snaking queue starts to form by 6pm.
Nakhon Kitchen, #01-341, 212 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530212
Walking into this whimsical cafe is like falling down the rabbit hole, with its Alice in Wonderland decor and treats. Chef-owner Yvette Chua, who was formerly at Bo Innovation, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Hong Kong, brings life to her artisanal bakes such as unicorn cakes and rainbow-hued macarons. Don’t miss out on the fluffy waffles! Pair them with pandan ice cream and gula melaka sauce – you won’t regret it.
Hatter Street, #01-333, 212 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530212
Soon Soon Teochew Porridge
Try going local for breakfast at this porridge joint. A staple Teochew food spot, it boasts a hearty spread of side dishes such as salted vegetables and braised beancurd.
Soon Soon Teochew Porridge, 13 Simon Road, Singapore 545897
Don’t be fooled by the name. While the bar stocks craft beers, local brews, popular labels and even soju (soju bomb, anyone?), it also serves a wide range of grub that will complement your boozy evening. From pizza and pasta to spam fries and roasted pork alongside local classics like BBQ sambal stingray and fried rice, you’ll be equal parts stuffed and tipsy.
Beer Basket, 1010 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534748
This hidden gem of an ice cream parlour is the perfect spot for a sweet rendezvous as it’s open till 2am. You won’t spot any synthetic flavouring or off-the-shelf mixes in the house-made ice cream. We love its wacky flavours such as Yakult oreo and oolong lavender. Yup, we tried the former and let’s just say, we’re sold. If you’re not up to travel all the way to Hougang, the joint delivers too!
Lickers, #01-1446, Block 124, Hougang Avenue 1, Singapore 530124
Nectars & Vine
Nectars & Vine doesn’t offer very much in terms of aesthetics or decor, but short of swigging beers at a coffee shop, this hole-in-the-wall dive bar is where you’ll find the cheapest beers in Serangoon. You can go for the ever-reliable Heineken or Hite, or try cult labels like Brewlander (yay, local) and Yardley Brothers. It isn’t equipped with a kitchen, but the staff will be happy to hook you up with a zi char menu that you can use to order some grub.
Nectars & Vine, 752 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534623
Tucked away in Kovan, this izakaya bar offers a range of premium sakes for you to choose from. Alternatively, you can opt for Japanese beers, a bang-for-your-buck choice. Feeling peckish? Dig into the donburi bowl or curry bento set alongside yakitori and gyozas. It’s open till 2am on Saturdays, so expect to kanpai all night long!
Tachinomiya, #01-285, Block 211 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530211
Guide to Hougang: Explore
Kampong Lorong Buangkok
If you’ve ever wanted to go back in time to Singapore’s former provincial life, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is the best place to do that. Located off Sengkang East Avenue, the rural site has been around since 1956 and is currently the last surviving village on Singapore’s main island. At this tranquil throwback to the past, life seems to come to a standstill. Take note, though: The place still houses over 20 families, so do your best to leave it undisturbed. Redevelopment is in the works, but plans won’t be put into place for a few decades.
Kampong Lorong Buangkok, 7 Lorong Buangkok, Singapore 547557
Interestingly enough, Punggol Park is actually located right smack in the heart of Hougang. What was once a hotspot at the now-defunct Wild Oats bar is currently a serene space for fitness lovers. Take a stroll around the five-hectare lake during the golden hour or cycle through the lush greenery.
Punggol Park, Hougang Avenue 10, Singapore 538768
Japanese Cemetery Park
Don’t be spooked by the largest Japanese cemetery in Southeast Asia. Built in 1891, it’s prettier than it is scary with pink floral archways that are reminiscent of sakura season in Japan. Serving as a burial ground for nearly 1,000 Japanese civilians and soldiers from the pre-war years, this place has strangely turned into an IG-friendly spot. But while you pose for the ‘gram, please do be mindful of the graves.
Japanese Cemetery Park, 22 Chuan Hoe Avenue, Singapore 549854
Block 316 HDB flats
Singapore is filled with interesting facades, from rare brutalist buildings to swanky apartments and futuristic mosques. Hougang has something to offer as well! It’s home to possibly the only HDB building in Singapore that has all the colours of the rainbow painted on it. Architectural buffs should add this unique HDB block of flats to your checklist.
Block 316 Hougang Avenue 7, Singapore 530316