Red House Bakery

Singapore Infopedia


The Red House Bakery is a popular reference to a relict confectionery shop, Katong Bakery & Confectionery. This bakery was a popular breakfast haunt among Singaporeans living in the eastern part of Singapore, especially for its signature cakes and curry puffs. It was established in 1925 and located at 75 East Coast Road. It was closed on 23 March 2003 after the shophouse where it was occupying was deemed as unsafe. 

There were two Red Houses when Katong Bakery & Confectionery was painted over the shop entrance in 1925.1 The other was at the corner of Bras Basah Road and Victoria Street.2 The Red House Bakery was located in a shophouse that is a wakaf property, put in trust to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore by Sherrifa Zain Alsharoff Mohamed Alsagoff, the great granddaughter of Hajjah Fatimah who built the famous Hajjah Fatimah Mosque at Beach Road.3 A Jewish man named Jim Baker started the bakery shop. In 1931, a Hainanese seaman, Tan Siang Fuan,4 paid $600 as “coffee money” to take over the bakery shop from Jim Baker.5

In 1957, the shophouse, where the Red House Bakery was occupying, was declared a wakaf asset together with five other adjacent shophouses along East Coast Road.6 It was specified that the rental income from the shophouses were to be used to fund Sherrifa Zain’s grandchildren’s education until 21 years after her death.7 Beyond that, the earnings were to be used to establish and maintain a free clinic, to be named the Al-Taha Dispensary.8

Key Features
The name Red House Bakery was derived from the façade of the two-storey shophouse that was painted in red.9 It was famous for its traditional cakes and pastries such as its curry puffs and soft swiss rolls.10 It was also known as a favourite hangout for local bands during the 1960s.11

Customers would choose and eat the amount of cakes or pastries that they desired and then proceeded to the cashier to make payment.12 The bakery shop practised a system of payment based on trust, as was the norm among old establishments. The bakery shop exuded old charm as the antique floral tiles and wooden furniture that greeted one upon entry would evoke a feeling of nostalgia.13

It was also the space for casual meetings for families who wanted to matchmake their children to suitable partners.14 There were even “matchmaker’s screens” where prospective couples were introduced, had tea, before going off to the nearby theatres.15 Located within an active retail, entertainment and community hub in the 1950s and 1960s, the bakery was located in what was “often considered the ‘traditional’ heart of Katong”.16

Today, the shophouse where the bakery once stood and the adjacent shophouses along the stretch of East Coast Road are being restored as a residential-retail-lifestyle heritage development.17 The Red House Project is slated to be completed by the second quarter of 2016, which includes a bakery and heritage gallery, with artefacts from the old bakery.18


Heirwin Mohd Nasir

1. Judith Holmberg, “Heart of Katong,” Straits Times, 9 August 1993, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Holmberg, “Heart of Katong.”
3. “A Bakery and a 'Free Clinic' Wish,” Straits Times, 1 April 2001, 43. (From NewspaperSG)
4. The name Tan Siang Fuan was also spelt as Tan Siang Suan in Gloria Chandy, “Do You Remember?New Paper, 23 July 2000, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Holmberg, “Heart of Katong”; Jane Ng, “Red House Closes Its Doors for Good,” Straits Times, 24 March 2003, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Bakery and a 'Free Clinic' Wish.”
7. “Bakery and a 'Free Clinic' Wish.”
8. “Bakery and a 'Free Clinic' Wish.”
9. Chandy, “Do You Remember?
10. Chandy, “Do You Remember?
11. Chandy, “Do You Remember?
12. Chandy, “Do You Remember?
13. Holmberg, “Heart of Katong”; Chandy, “Do You Remember?
14. Holmberg, “Heart of Katong.”
15. Lily Kong and T. C. Chang, Joo Chiat: Living Legacy (Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizen's Consultative Committee, 2001), 81 (Call no. RSING 959.57 KON-[HIS]); Chandy, “Do You Remember?
16. Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Lily Kong, eds., Portraits of Places: History, Community and Identity in Singapore (Singapore: Times Editions, 1995), 121. (Call no. RSING 959.57 POR)
17. Melissa Lin, “Katong’s Iconic Red House to Reopen By Second Quarter of 2016,” Straits Times, 10 December 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
18. Lily Kong and Vineeta Sinha, eds., Food, Foodways and Foodscapes: Culture, Community and Consumption in Post-Colonial Singapore (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015), 141 (Call no. RSING 394.12095957 FOO); Lin, “Katong’s Iconic Red House to Reopen.”

Further resources
Jane Ng, “Ex-Red House Bakery to Be Part of $15m Project,” Straits Times, 30 July 2007, 25. (From NewspaperSG)

Josephine James, “Can Katong’s Laid-Back Charm Be Saved?” Straits Times, 1 December 2000, 12. (From NewspaperSG)

Lee Liang Hye, oral history interview by Zaleha Osman, 24 August 1999, transcript and MP3 audio, 29:02, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 002186), 22–26.

Red House,” Straits Times, 9 August 1997, 14. (From NewspaperSG)

Red House Closes,” New Paper, 24 March 2003, 34. (From NewspaperSG)

Tan Dawn Wei, “Where You Can Find Hainanese Eats,” New Paper, 5 May 2002, 32. (From NewspaperSG)

Zainab Bee Abdul Sattar, oral history interview by Zaleha Osman, 29 December 1998, transcript and MP3 audio, 15:38, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 002084), 41–44.

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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