Glass roof for food street in Chinatown

Chinatown Food Street, a 100m stretch of road given over to hawker stalls, has now a permanent roof to protect diners from rain.

But building the three-storey-high structure has been unexpectedly complicated, resulting in a two-month delay in the street's opening, said Select Group, which runs the place.

It expects to open the popular outdoor hawker haunt by the end of this month.

The refreshed street will also have more than twice the number of food stalls, and among the 24 hawkers waiting to open are popular names from other parts of Singapore.

These include Geylang Lorong 9 Fresh Frog Leg Porridge and Odeon Beef Noodles.

Diners can also expect to eat in comfort under the glass roof as a cooling system has been built into the pillars holding up the structure, to create a continuous breeze.

The complication was caused largely by the complex network of underground cables and pipes, said Select's executive director Jack Tan.

It forced a redesign of the foundation of the pillars holding up the roof, he added. "We had to redesign it and resubmit our plans."

The rainy season and recent Chinese New Year crowd in Chinatown also slowed down the works, he said. As a result, the bill went up by another $1 million, to about $5 million.

But Mr Tan hopes the new food offerings and a planned tie-up with tour agencies to bring tourists will see about 6,000 to 8,000 diners heading daily to the area. It can seat between 600 and 700 people at any one time.

He also plans to stage street performances.

"Hopefully all these will help make up for the lost business over the last few months," he said.

But the most important thing is the food, he added.

Further bolstering his menu of local fare will be familiar Teochew, Hokkien and and Cantonese dishes, the food of Singapore's main dialect groups.

And in a bid to ensure quality, Mr Tan has kept only two of the 10 previous stalls. One sells local barbecue dishes and the other, fried kway teow.

"We wanted to ensure a consistent standard across all the stalls," he said.

One newcomer to the street is Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters. Its operator Lau Jock Keah, 60, who has been in the business for almost 40 years, also serves fried oyster omelette from a stall at the Singapore Flyer.

Giving his reason for setting up another stall in Chinatown, he said: "We want to give everyone, including Singaporeans, value-for-money good food, so they will not think this place is only for tourists, but will come back again."

News of the food street reopening is drawing smiles from the businesses in the shophouses of Smith Street.

Business had plunged by as much as 80 per cent since the street was closed last May and hoardings installed, blocking access, ventilation and lighting.

Said Madam Zhu, who runs Sichuan restaurant Chang Jiang Bian Shang: "It has been so quiet. We hope the opening will make the place as busy as before, even if we have to compete for customers."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.