Vegetarian delights: A savoury fried (white) carrot cake from South-east Asia (chai tow kway)
South-east Asian street food at its best
One of my earliest posts for thebigfatnoodle was about how I taught myself to make a local dish from South-east Asia called fried carrot cake.
Traditionally, it uses mooli (also called daikon) – a white radish – but I can’t always get hold of this unless I find it at the Chinese grocery story.
Back in Singapore, this is quite a breakfast treat though people also have this for lunch or dinner too – it’s that yummy!
Locally, it’s called chai tow kway in the Hokkien dialect, Sometimes we eat it with chilli sauce, sometimes it’s drizzled with dark/sweet soy – which we then call a ‘black’ version of carrot cake.
When I first wrote up the recipe, I ended up creating one using normal radishes you can find at the supermarket and a carrot. It tasted awesome but it turned the steamed rice cakes pink – no matter because my ‘red’ carrot cake actually had a more peppery taste compared to the traditional white one. You can find that original recipe here in case you can’t get hold of mooli.
Our best friend in Paris, who shared a flat with us in Singapore, loved carrot cake and I was really pleased to be able to tell him last year that I could now teach him how to make it himself. Plus his girlfriend is a vegetarian, so our Asian-style savoury carrot cake would hopefully be something she would love.
However, in talking to him about how to make it, it suddenly occurred to me that not everyone has a wok big enough to be able to steam the rice cakes required for this dish. So what I’ve done today is to make this dish – this time using the traditional white mooli – but I’ve worked out the correct oven temperature so the carrot cake can be baked instead. I hope this will mean that many more of you will be tempted to try and make this very delicious dish.
It is really a taste of my south-east Asian roots on a plate and there are so many things that I love about it – it’s packed with flavour, is vegetarian though you can always add meat to it if you really want to, it’s so easy to make, and it’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
If you can’t get hold of any mooli, then I urge you to refer to my original recipe which uses normal red radishes and a carrot.
I also haven’t used the traditional pickled radishes as I decided to substitute it with Japanese pink pickled ginger, which I think might be easier for most of you to find nowadays.
Hope you like this dish!
Lots of love
White (savoury) fried carrot cake ingredients (makes 4-6 portions as a main depending on how hungry you are)
500 grams mooli, cut into little cubes (as small as you can manage) or use a mandolin/food processor to grate this
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups of ground white rice flour
2 cups of warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For frying the carrot cake
Don’t forget that the measurements below are for cooking all the carrot cake. Make sure you adjust it accordingly if you’re not planning to use all of the carrot cake.
6 large eggs, beaten (add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to the beaten egg)
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
3-4 spring onions, sliced
2 tablespoons Japanese pink pickled ginger
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
(optional) 1 tablespoons of fish sauce for seasoning if necessary
(optional) ½ red onion, fried
2-3 spring onions, finely chopped & for garnishing
(optional) coriander for garnishing
(Optional) chilli sauce for dipping
Making the carrot cake (you can prepare the rice cake in advance and freeze what you don’t use up)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Please make sure you have a dish for the carrot cake (lined with grease proof paper) that will fit into a roasting tray as you’ll effectively be cooking your rice cake in a bain marie. Or if you have a steamer large enough, you can just steam the rice cakes for an hour.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and add the mooli – fry this on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of white pepper. Turn the heat down and keep gently frying the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft and any liquid is gone. Remove from the heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine the rice flour and water and whisk until smooth. Add the radish mix evenly. Pour the cake mixture into a cake tin or tray, seal it with aluminium foil and set it into another roasting tray. Pour boiling water up to at least half way up your baking dish and pop this into the oven to cook for 40-45 minutes.
Your rice cake should be set – firm but not too hard.
Remove the rice cake and allow it to cool before turning it out, discarding the parchment paper and cutting into cubes.
Frying the carrot cake
Cut all the rice cakes into about 2 cm cubes.
In a fry pan or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add your cubed carrot cake. Fry the carrot cake, allowing some of the sides to brown and crisp up. Once you get some nice crispy edges to your fried carrot cake, add the chopped garlic, half of the spring onions and the pickled ginger and chillies.
If you’re not using a non-stick frying pan and find your carrot cake starting to stick, add a little more oil.
Pour your beaten egg mixture over the carrot cake and let it cook for a few seconds (like an omelette), before flipping sections of the carrot cake. Season your carrot cake with a little bit more salt/pepper or with fish sauce if you feel you need to.
Garnish with the remaining chopped spring onions/coriander and serve immediately with a saucer of hot chilli sauce or sweet soy sauce.