Savoury Fried Black Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway)
Oops it's been awhile since I updated this blog. But I have a great recipe to share today, and I hope it makes up for it! :)
Fried Carrot Cake or Chai Tow Kway as fondly referred to by us Singaporeans is in fact a misnomer because there's no carrot in it, unlike its confection-ed cousin with its cream cheese topping. Instead, Chai Tow Kway is made of white radish or what most people know as daikon, shredded to very fine bits with a mandolin, mixed with starch, water and salt and then steamed over high heat in a baking pan for around an hour. The Cantonese version which my mum makes now and then has a bit more variety in it, and by variety, I mean the addition of diced shrimps, mushrooms and Chinese sausage aka lapcheong into the radish mix.
The steamed version is of course healthier and can be served with fried shallots and spring onions as a tasty dim sum dish. But that's not enough for the average Singaporean, especially when the fried version is so readily available at hawker centres. If you ask me, the steamed version is like a plain Jane whilst the black and white versions are the siblings who went for a makeover. :P
If you happen to get Chai Tow Kway from a famous stall, be prepared to wait at least a good 30 minutes for it to be served piping hot to you. I always enjoy watching the master at his craft standing in front of a big smoky wok, deftly pouring scoops of oil, black sweet sauce into the carrot cake mix and seeing all that carrot cake, egg and preserved radish transform into a beautiful mess of savoury, sweet and crispness. Come to think of it, I don't think I know of a Chai Tow Kway stall that doesn't have a queue, unless it's really rubbish!
This post today will recreate the black version, mainly because it's my favourite over the white one. For me, a superb black Chai Tow Kway has the following characteristics. It must be:
- not too chunky, because that means the proportion of seasoning might be too little and you end up tasting more radish cake than seasoning. You don't want to cut them too small either, cos then your dish might end up tasting mushy
- savoury with a perfect balance of sweet and salty from the preserved radish and seasonings
- slightly crispy from the eggy bits and preserved radish
Here's the recipe.
200g of radish cake (you can get the ready-made ones for cheap from your local markets or supermarket), diced into cubes of around 0.5cm by 0.5cm.
1 tbsp of preserved radish (chye poh)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp kecap manis or sweet black sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sambal chilli sauce
chopped spring onions for garnish
Wash the chye poh and leave to soak for a minute to get rid of the excess salt. Rinse off the water.
In a frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, then the garlic. Stir-fry till fragrant, then add the diced carrot cake cubes. Continue to stir-fry and char the cubes a bit.
Push the carrot cake cubes to one side, then crack the 2 eggs. Let the eggs cook and stir the yolks around, and when it's about 70% done, quickly add the kecap manis, sambal and fish sauce to the pan and stir-fry till evenly coated.
Taste your carrot cake to see if it's to your liking. I prefer mine a bit more sweet, so I usually add more kecap manis to my carrot cake.
Dish up and sprinkle chopped spring onions over your piping hot chai tow kway
Warning: Once you've mastered this dish, there's no turning back. You'll be making it every other week because it's so addictive to eat!