One of my all time favourite breakfast dish back in Singapore was Chai Tow Kway 菜头粿 or fried carrot cake. Every Saturday morning, I would go to my local hawker centre in the market and ordered this to takeaway. The uncle or auntie who manned the stalls would cooked this on the spot with tremendous skills and then wrapped them up in brown papers secured by some rubber bands. Along with this would be some toothpicks which act like cutlery for you to pick up the food and eat them with. Not the easiest task as the Kway/cake were soft and always crumbled whenever I attempted to bring them to my mouth. Over the years, I have learnt that to succeed in this feat, you have to be quick and using the poke and lift, then straight into mouth action. Any doodling in-between will result in a catastrophic mess.
Despite it being named carrot cake, it is actually made using the Japanese daikon or white radish and not the orange root vegetable that we know of. So if you have stumbled upon this post looking for some delicious baked moist cake topped with cheese icing, you have come to the wrong place but feel free to stay on if you wish to discover a parallel world of tasty savoury alternative.
There are two types of Chai Tow Kway 菜头粿 , and these always causes great divisions and arguments as to which version is better. The 'white' version is salty from the fish sauce and slightly lighter in taste while the 'darker' version is sweet from the addition of kecap manis or sweet soy sauce. It is also denser and more robust, which is amazing considering only one ingredient set them apart and yet the difference in flavours are quite pronounced. Fan of either will argued that their preferred choice will be the better of the two but in my opinion, they are both delicious. Other ingredients include preserved turnip or chai poh, as it is known in Singapore which provide a sweet and crunchy texture; eggs, beansprouts and garlic chives etc.
It's been a while since I last had this delectable breakfast dish and over the weekend, I thought I will make some just to satisfy my little carrot cake cravings. A little planning beforehand is necessary as the cake itself has to be prepared the day before. Once steamed and cooked, the cake will then need to be cooled down in the fridge overnight. This helped to firm up the cake and makes it easier to cut into bite size. And since I couldn't quite make up my mind, I decided to treat myself to both versions. It was a very enjoyable breakfast, perfect for a spot of al fresco dining out in the garden, well, the current warming sunshine did helped too.
For the Carrot/Radish cake: (makes enough to fill a 9in cake tin)
750g grated daikon/white radish
800ml boiling water
200g rice flour
1 tsp sea salt
Place the grated daikon in a large pan and pour over enough boiling water to completely cover the daikon. Leave for 10 minutes and drain in a colander, reserving 350ml of the soaking water. Return the daikon to the pan, add the rice flour, salt along with the reserved water and mix thoroughly to combine.
Line a 9 inch cake with cling film. Pour the mixture into the pre-lined cake tin and smooth with a spatula. Place the tin in a steamer and steam over simmering water for 1 1/2 hours, until firm. Remember to replenish the boiling water every so often, do not allow the steamer to dry out. Remove the tin from the steamer and leave to cool in the fridge overnight.
|Clockwise from top left: Radish cake, eggs, preserve turnips/chai poh, chilli sauce, garlic, bean sprouts, garlic chives|
1 carrot/radish cake (from above), cut into small bite-size
3 tbsp sunflower oil
4 tbsp chopped preserved turnips/chai poh
3 tbsp chopped Chinese garlic chives
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp fish sauce
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Good quality chilli sauce, to taste (depending of how spicy you want)
4 medium free-range eggs, beaten
a large handful of beansprouts
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce/kecap manis (omit if you are making the white version)
2 spring onions, cut into rings, for garnish on the white version
a small sprig of fresh coriander leaves, for garnish on the darker version
Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Frying the chopped carrot/radish cake for 1 minute, until lightly browned. Add the chai poh/preserved turnip and garlic and stir-fry for another 30 seconds, until fragrant before adding the fish sauce, black pepper, chilli sauce and stir to mix thoroughly.
Pour in the beaten eggs and leave for 30 seconds, until the eggs are slightly set, before adding in the bean sprouts and * flip the egg mixture in sections. Fry for another minute and dish out if you are serving the white version and garnish with the chopped spring onions.
* For the darker version, drizzle the sweet soy sauce/kecap manis before flipping the egg mixture and mix well to coat. Transfer onto a serving plate and garnish with the fresh coriander.