Carrot cake



Fried carrot cake, or chai tow kway in the Teochew dialect, consists of cubes of radish cake stir-fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish. The dish has two common versions: the white version, which is seasoned with light soya sauce, and the black version, where dark soya sauce is added instead.1 There is also a Penang variant of the dish, known in the Hokkien dialect as char kway kak, which is darker in colour than the Singapore version.2

Description
The core ingredient of this dish is the radish cake, which is made from white radish and steamed rice flour. It is prepared by stir-frying the radish cake with garlic, eggs and chai poh (preserved radish) before seasoning it with light soya sauce.3 During the process, the radish cake is usually cut into cubes to allow the flavour and fragrance of the seasoning and ingredients to permeate the cake. Some hawkers prefer to cook the cubes of radish cake and ingredients as a large omelette or pancake.4

There are two common versions of carrot cake offered at hawker centres: the white version, which is seasoned with light soya sauce, and the dark version, where dark sweet soya sauce is used instead.5 There are also versions where fish sauce is used instead of soya sauce.

History

The origins of carrot cake can be traced to a Chinese Teochew dish found in Chaoshan, China, known as mi gao (rice cake) or gao guo (starch cake). Unlike the local version, the Chaoshan rice cake is made only from rice flour and milled puffed rice. Fish sauce and black sweetened soya sauce are used to marinate the rice cake before it is cut and fried with eggs, oysters and prawns. Sometimes a spicy barbecue sauce is added and the dish topped with sugar before serving.6

The dish was brought over to Singapore by early Teochew immigrants7 and as late as the 1950s it was still known as char kueh (fried rice cake), which was simply cubes of rice cakes stir-fried with dark soya sauce.8 In those days, preparing the core ingredient, the rice cakes, was hard work as the hawkers had to mill broken rice grains into flour. Gradually, more ingredients were added to the dish, including radish for the rice cakes as well as preserved radish, eggs, garlic and soya sauce for extra flavouring.9

Teochew hawker Ng Soik Theng claims to be the first to have called this dish chai tow kway (fried carrot cake) in the 1960s when she added radish to it.10 Another hawker, Lau Goh, claims to be one of the pioneers who converted the dark carrot cake into a white version. He began selling his carrot cake out of a pushcart along Merchant Road in the 1960s before he became famous for his white carrot cake stall at People’s Park in the 1970s. He also mixed radish with his rice flour paste, though he did not use preserved radish while preparing the dish. To save on cost, some of Lau Goh’s customers brought their own duck eggs to be fried with the dish. The cake was cut up with a string into finger-length rectangles before eating.11

Variants
The Penang Chinese have a version known as char kway kak, which is Hokkien for “fried cake”. It is darker in colour than the Singapore version. This dish is seldom served in Singapore but is more common in Malaysia. In the past, the dish was served in a newspaper lined with banana leaves, which was then rolled into a cone. Toothpicks were used to eat the dish instead of chopsticks.12

Traditionally, char kway kak is made purely of rice flour and has no radish.13 It is topped with prawns or cockles, chinese sausages (lap cheong) or the crispy skin of roast pork belly (siu yuk). It is also often served with bean sprouts.

Variant names
Hokkien: chye tow kueh, chai tow kueh, chai tau kueh.14
Cantonese: lo baak guo, lor pak kuo.
Malay: kek lobak goreng.
English: turnip cake.
Penang variant: char kueh kak.15



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Life! Eats: A guide to Singapore’s best food places. (2004). Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, p. 190. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 LIF)
2. See, B. (2006). Famous street food of Penang: A guide and cook book. Malaysia: Star Publications, p. 100. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 FAM)
3. Wan, R., & Hiew, R. (2010). There’s no carrot in carrot cake. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 47. Call no.: (RSING 41.30095957 WAN)
4.Chan, M. (1984, September 23). How carrot cake has evolved. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Wan, R., & Hiew, R. (2010). There’s no carrot in carrot cake. Singapore: Epigram Books, p. 47. Call no.: (RSING 41.30095957 WAN)
6. Chan, M. (1984, September 23). How carrot cake has evolved. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tay, L. (2012, February 2). Lau Goh Carrot Cake: The history of carrot cake (Chai Tau Kueh revisited). iEat.iShoot.iPost. Retrieved from iEat ishoot ipost website:
http://ieatishootipost.sg/lau-goh-carrot-cake-the-history-of-carrot-cake-chai-tau-kueh-revisited
7. Chan, M. (1984, September 23). How carrot cake has evolved. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Tay, L. (2012, February 2). Lau Goh Carrot Cake: The history of carrot cake (Chai Tau Kueh revisited). iEat.iShoot.iPost. Retrieved from iEat iShoot iPost website:
http://ieatishootipost.sg/lau-goh-carrot-cake-the-history-of-carrot-cake-chai-tau-kueh-revisited
9. Thng, L. T. (2007, June 3). Carrot cake made from scratch. The Sunday Times, p. 78. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; Tay, Leslie. (2010, February 26). Bukit Merah View Carrot Cake: The last bastion of tradition! iEat.iShoot.iPost. Retrieved from iEat iShoot iPost website: http://ieatishootipost.sg/bukit-merah-view-carrot-cake-the-last-bastion-of-tradition
10. Mah, K. K. (1995, July 30). Carrot cake fried to perfection. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tay, L. (2012, February 2). Lau Goh Carrot Cake: The history of carrot cake (Chai Tau Kueh revisited). iEat.iShoot.iPost. Retrieved from iEat iShoot iPost website: http://ieatishootipost.sg/lau-goh-carrot-cake-the-history-of-carrot-cake-chai-tau-kueh-revisited
12. See, B. (2006). Famous street food of Penang: A guide and cook book. Malaysia: Star Publications, p. 100. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 FAM)
13. See, B. (2006). Famous street food of Penang: A guide and cook book. Malaysia: Star Publications, p. 100. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 FAM)
14. Tay, L. (2012, February 2). Lau Goh Carrot Cake: The history of carrot cake (Chai Tau Kueh revisited). iEat.iShoot.iPost. Retrieved from iEat ishoot ipost website:
http://ieatishootipost.sg/lau-goh-carrot-cake-the-history-of-carrot-cake-chai-tau-kueh-revisited
15. See, B. (2006). Famous street food of Penang: A guide and cook book. Malaysia: Star Publications, p. 100. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595951 FAM)



The information in this article is valid as at 5 June 2013 and correct as far as we are able to 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.

 

Subject
Ethnic foods
Local foods
Ethnic Communities>>Food

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