The district of Tanjong Pagar forms an integral part of Singapore’s Central Business District, or CBD. Dramatically changed over the years, Tanjong Pagar is rich in both history and culture. Blending traditional heritage architectures with modern designs, it inspires and showcases the importance of Tanjong Pagar as a beacon of Singapore’s progress, innovation and success as a city-state. To truly appreciate what it is today, we’ll have to look back into its colorful and interesting history.
Located at the southernmost tip of the island, Tanjong Pagar was once a fishing village. The name Tanjong Pagar actually meant ‘cape of barricade’ that was inspired by a local legend. According to Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu, a literary work that glorifies and romanticizes the Malacca Sultanate whose rule extended beyond the waters of Singapore back in the 16th century, fishing villages along the coastal line of the island was frequently attacked by schools of swordfishes. To counter this threat, the King took the advice from a gifted boy and placed barricades made of banana tree trunks along the beaches. As the swordfishes leaped from the waters to attack, their snouts were caught in between the barricades, nullifying their threat.
As colorful as the legend that inspires the name are the early inhabitants of Tanjong Pagar, that consists of mostly sea nomads and Chinese agricultural workers working in nutmeg, gambier and fruit plantations. Due to the fertile soil and conducive landscape around the area, rich Chinese and European owners were buying big plot of lands and converting them into huge plantations that were attracting men to work as labourers. It gave birth to many new villages and settlements within the area who were predominantly Hokkiens.
Tanjong Pagar’s true importance to Singapore’s and South East Asia’s economic growth was only realized with the development of the Keppel Harbour in the 19th century. With the opening of the Suez Canal, international trade and the shipping industry went into overdrive. Blessed with a natural deep harbour and strategically located between the popular shipping straits connecting the Indian Ocean with the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, Tanjong Pagar was the perfect location to build a port. Soon, the port was transformed into a major shipping hub bustling with ships and vessels of all sizes from all over the world, plying and docking with their valuable cargoes. The port kept growing to keep up with its burgeoning shipping activities throughout the years until what it is today, one of the world’s most modern port with the latest infrastructure.
As Singapore continues to progress and grow as a modern city state, the reliance of Tanjong Pagar’s Keppel Harbour as a key economic source diminished over the years while new sectors such as industrial, banking, healthcare services and technology took prominence. These days, Tanjong Pagar is seen more as both a cultural and commercial center. Some of the hippest and trendiest restaurants, pubs and cafes line the sidewalks along Tanjong Pagar Road, but the famed Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre remains one of the most iconic and important landmark within the district.
Built in 1977, the Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre has been serving some of the best local hawker cuisines in Singapore for more than 40 years. Popular with dishes such as nasi lemak, char kuay teow, wanton noodles and a host of other mouth-watering food varieties, it is one of the hottest lunch venues serving residents and office workers around the CBD.
Impressed and inspired by the colorful history and food heritage of Tanjong Pagar, it is one of the key reasons why Kitchen Showdown chooses to be located here. One of our most popular culinary team bonding programs, The Amazing Race Challenge, requiring participants to race towards the nearest supermarket located right next to the famous Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre to procure fresh ingredients. This is an opportunity for participants to experience the wonderful blend of heritage and modern of Tanjong Pagar, at the same time be inspired by the delicacies served at the food center as they prepare to whip up their own culinary wonders.
Withstanding the test of time and still evolving, Tanjong Pagar’s importance as a significant cultural and economic landmark will continue, echoing the continuous growth and progress of Singapore.