Discover the Retro Wet Market in Singapore: Tan Xiang Cai Shi

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Tan Xiang Cai Shi | Photo Source: Google

Singapore, a bustling metropolis known for its modernity, has an intriguing way of preserving its cultural heritage. One such instance is the retro wet market-themed kopitiam, Tan Xiang Cai Shi.

This nostalgic food court, inspired by the wet markets of the 1980s and 90s, offers a unique dining experience that transports visitors back in time. Located in Chai Chee, this 400-seater kopitiam is the latest venture by Mediacorp actor-host and F&B entrepreneur Ben Yeo, and it promises an exciting blend of old-school charm and delectable cuisine.

The Vision Behind Tan Xiang Cai Shi

Ben Yeo’s Inspiration

Ben Yeo, a prominent figure in Singapore’s food and beverage industry, is renowned for his innovative culinary ventures. His latest project, Tan Xiang Cai Shi, is a testament to his passion for creating unique dining experiences.

Inspired by the wet markets of his childhood, Ben sought to recreate the nostalgic atmosphere of these bustling hubs within a modern Kopitiam setting. This vision led to the establishment of Tan Xiang Cai Shi, a place where visitors can enjoy not only the food but also the ambience of a bygone era.

Investment and Setup

The creation of Tan Xiang Cai Shi was no small feat. With an investment of $800,000, Ben Yeo and his partners, including chef Cao Yong, meticulously planned and executed the setup of this retro-themed kopitiam. Their goal was to offer an authentic experience reminiscent of the 80s and 90s wet markets, complete with rustic wooden stalls, vintage knick-knacks, and charming photo spots.

Despite the substantial investment, Ben and his team expect to break even within three to five years, a timeline they are confident in achieving based on their previous successes in the F&B industry.

The Nostalgic Experience

Retro Decor and Ambience

Stepping into Tan Xiang Cai Shi is like stepping back in time. The decor is thoughtfully curated to evoke memories of the past, with elements such as old-school signboards, rattan furniture, and even a real vintage car at the entrance.

The space is designed to resemble a kampong house, complete with rustic wooden stalls and custom-made orange tables. Instagram-worthy photo spots, such as a faux newsstand and a rattan furniture store, add to the nostalgic charm. The background music, featuring xinyao tunes, further enhances the ambience, making it a delightful place to reminisce and enjoy a meal.

Layout of the Kopitiam

Tan Xiang Cai Shi is cleverly divided into three sections: the “dry” section, the “wet” section, and the hawker centre. The “dry” section, located at the entrance, features backdrops with props perfect for photo opportunities. Here, visitors can browse through old magazines at the faux newsstand or enjoy a cup of coffee at the rattan shop.

Inside, the hawker centre section offers a classic look with glossy orange tables and retro signage, reminiscent of old hawker centres. The “wet” section, complete with roast meats hanging on racks and fresh fish displayed on ice, captures the essence of traditional butcher and fishmonger stalls.

The Culinary Offerings

Signature Dishes

At the heart of Tan Xiang Cai Shi is its impressive array of culinary offerings. The standout dish is undoubtedly the Charcoal Fish Head Steamboat. Priced from $46, this dish features a rich, umami-packed soup made from old hen chicken, pork bone, fried fish head, and dried scallops, simmered for hours to perfection.

The soup, infused with a smoky flavour from the charcoal, is a true delight for the senses. Other notable dishes include the Salted Egg Yolk Australian Lobster and the ever-popular Coffee Spare Ribs, both of which have garnered rave reviews from visitors.

Variety of Stalls

Tan Xiang Cai Shi is home to seven food stalls, each offering a unique culinary experience. Among them is Ba Wang Pan Mee, run by celebrity chef Alvin Leong, known for its handmade ban mian with traditional and unique pairings.

Another highlight is Gurih by The Padangton, a halal nasi padang stall offering favourites such as beef rendang and mee rebus. Other stalls include Pacific Mixed Vegetable Rice, Ming Xing Roasted Delights, and a drinks stall operated by Ben and his partners. Each stall adds to the vibrant and diverse food scene at Tan Xiang Cai Shi, ensuring there is something for everyone.

DIY and Interactive Elements

One of the unique features of Tan Xiang Cai Shi is the interactive DIY coffee-pulling experience. Visitors can try their hand at brewing and pulling their kopi, just like the hawker uncles and aunties of yesteryears. The DIY coffee set, priced at $9.90 for two people, includes coffee powder, brewing vessels, toast, and soft-boiled eggs, making it a fun and nostalgic activity.

Additionally, visitors can help themselves to complimentary old-school snacks such as Apollo chocolate wafers and ice pops, adding to the overall nostalgic experience. The Kopitiam also offers free kiddie rides, making it a family-friendly destination.

The Community Impact

Reviving Local Culture

Tan Xiang Cai Shi plays a significant role in reviving local culture and preserving the memories of old wet markets. By recreating the atmosphere of these markets, Ben Yeo and his team have created a space where visitors can relive their childhood memories and introduce younger generations to a piece of Singapore’s cultural heritage.

The Kopitiam not only serves as a dining destination but also as a cultural hub, fostering a sense of community and nostalgia.

Future Plans and Sustainability

Looking ahead, Ben Yeo and his partners have ambitious plans for Tan Xiang Cai Shi. They aim to continue expanding their F&B ventures, with a focus on creating unique and memorable dining experiences.

Sustainability is also a key consideration, with efforts to reduce waste and promote eco-friendly practises. By combining nostalgia with modern sustainability practises, Tan Xiang Cai Shi sets a new standard for themed dining in Singapore.

Conclusion

Tan Xiang Cai Shi is more than just a Kopitiam; it is a journey back in time, offering a unique blend of nostalgia, culture, and culinary delights. With its thoughtfully designed decor, diverse food offerings, and interactive experiences, it promises an unforgettable experience for all who visit.

Whether you’re a fan of retro vibes, a foodie looking for delectable dishes, or simply someone seeking to relive childhood memories, Tan Xiang Cai Shi is a must-visit destination in Singapore. So come and explore this retro wet market, and let yourself be transported back to the 80s and 90s, one bite at a time.

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