The Former Opera House & Opera Snacks


25 Trengganu Street Singapore 058476


The former opera house & traditional opera snacks

Lai Chun Yuen 梨春园 was by far the most popular Chinese opera theatre in Singapore in the late 19th century. Built in 1887 with unique cantilevering wooden balconies, its overwhelming popularity made it a prominent landmark. The surrounding streets were colloquially named after the theatre itself; Smith Street was Theater Street, Temple Street was Theater Rear Street, and Trengganu Street was Theater Side Street.

Opera stars from Hong Kong and China would grace the theatre. Patrons would sit around small tables, nibbling tidbits and sipping tea while famous opera singers performed on stage. Wealthier patrons had private cubicles where they enjoyed more personal services. All these took place in high-ceilinged rooms with wooden balconies, decorated with painted ornaments and dimly-lit lanterns. All these gradually came to an end in the late 1930s, with the advent of 'talking' movies. In 1941, Lai Chun Yuen was converted into a cinema, but did not survive the Japanese Occupation.

The building was only repaired after the war. Since its restoration, it has been converted for retail, and was subsequently a warehouse for street hawkers. In more recent years, it was converted into a hotel.

Uncle Ah Orh has been selling roasted chestnuts since the 1970s (that's nearly 50 years ago). Selling chestnuts is a dying trade as it's alot of hard work and it isn't very lucrative. Bugis 102 Roasted Chestnut started from an unlicensed push cart stall at old Bugis Street, the infamous wild entertainment hub of old Singapore. Uncle Ah Orh moved to Chinatown after Bugis Street was redeveloped.

The raw chestnuts imported from China are roasted with sugar at 300℃ in coarse sand in a gas fired drum. Uncle Ah Orh used to turn the chestnuts in the hot sand but now it's done with a motorised stirrer.