Step-By-Step Recipe: Making from scratch… Carrot / Radish Cake, Chai Tao Kway (菜头粿)

Oops… #chubkaichun and I have just done it again – Incomprehensible craziness, sheer insanity! How else could we explain why we made Carrot Cake from scratch? I hope we’re not leaving your heads scratching already… (okay I’ll stop trying to be punny). Kicking off TummyTroll’s special Chai Tao Kway Week, this first post of the series will showcase the steps to making the steamed “cake” or kueh / kway in Chai Tao Kway. We believe this is the hardest part of the whole process – The subsequent frying, preparing of preserved turnip, rendering of lard etc. prove to be easy relative to this!

For the uninitiated / non-Singaporean or Malaysian readers, this isn’t the nutty cream cheese frosted Carrot Cake that you’d find in boulangeries and cafes. This is Fried Carrot Cake, arguably one of the most beloved hawker dishes in Singapore and Malaysia (and even Thailand I’d heard), with its origins in South China. Grated radish is combined with rice flour and steamed into a solid cake-like form, left overnight for better texture, then fried with a myriad of seasoning and “poor man” ingredients like preserved turnip, lard, eggs and beansprouts. It’s an explosion of the senses with its thundering fragrance and unique mouth-feel! And for many like us living overseas, a genuine reminder of how home tastes like… :”)

P.S. Some people call it Fried Radish Cake, some call it Fried Carrot Cake, and it’s used almost interchangeably back home. It should be more accurately termed as Fried Radish Cake since hawkers don’t actually put carrots in them, but we’ll use it interchangeably in this series. Please forgive us if you’re a little confused!

——————————————————————————————————————–Ingredients for Steamed Carrot / Radish Cake, Chai Tao Kway (菜头粿): Serves 5-6

Steamed Carrot / Radish Cake, Chai Tao Kway (菜头粿)
1 large radish approx 700-800g when grated
250g rice flour
300g water*
Salt, a dash

*This doesn’t have to be pure water – It might be the juices from the steamed grated radish that might collect in your steaming dish. More on this later below!


Step-By-Step: Carrot / Radish Cake, Chai Tao Kway (菜头粿)

Step 1: Grating the radish and growing some big arm muscles

This is how a radish looks like. We got this from the Asian supermarket because this didn’t seem to be a popular vegetable in the British supermarkets (just my conjecture). Can our readers from Europe / USA / Australia tell us if this is actually commonly eaten on your dinner tables?

To spare you from looking at the glorious sexy arm muscles #chubkaichun and I have gotten just from grating the radish in half an hour, here is the finished product – All grated but not too fine!

You’d have noticed two other bowls of grated somethingz in the background in the previous photo. Those are grated swedes (another type of turnip, not the people living in Sweden)! It’s our little experiment on the sideline… More on this later!

Step 2: Steaming the goods, Round 1

Steam for 45minutes at medium-low heat until all the radish is cooked.

A good way to check if it’s cooked is to see if it has turned slightly translucent, or when it has started to shrink and release water.

Step 3: Making a “cake batter”

Measure the rice flour – Don’t confuse with glutinous rice flour! Here we want the flour milled from pure white rice!

Avalanche of rice flour – Combine with steamed grated radish.

Remember I mentioned that the radish might release its juices after steaming? Here it is! We decided to use this in replacement of pure water because we didn’t want to waste this radish “essence” – It’s ultra sweet and packs a punch!

Mix well, and add in just a dash of salt to enhance the flavour.

Step 4: Steaming the goods, Round 2

Now steam for another 45 minutes, this time at high heat!

Remember the swedes with that beautiful deep-orange hue? We’d basically repeated the same steps here but with swede instead of radish. Steam at 45 minutes at high heat too!

After steaming… It becomes a solid block that is firm to the touch, perhaps just a little springy!

Step 5: Leaving it for long/overnight to chill

***IMPORTANT STEP: Leave it aside for long or preferably overnight in the fridge to let it cool and firm up. This is a pertinent step! The steamed radish cake becomes so much easier to handle when cool. Sure, it’s all soft and melty right out of the steamer but they’ll soon become mashed lumps of flour on the pan when you’re frying them – No good!

Step 6: Cutting up the steamed cake

All ready to be cut into cubes/slices after being chilled in the fridge for long!

Slice and cut into chunks/slices of the desired size!

Our theme for the day is irregularity – Hawker style!

Steamed radish cake and the steamed “swede” cake.
Steamed radish cake and my bony fingers.
That’s all for the steaming part – It’s tedious enough, isn’t it? Imagine the long hours and the energy our hawkers have to put in just grating the radish (that is, if they don’t buy the pre-made ones from factories), leaving the cakes overnight and of course frying them into plates of perfection later. I have the utmost respect for all our hawkers churning us all these wonderful food made with their time, sweat and sincerity! Next time I’m at the Chai Tao Kway stall in a hawker centre (which won’t be quite too soon though) I will remember to thank the hawker for his or her dedication to the craft and for contributing to Singapore’s exciting food scene. Thank you :)
And to all our TummyTroll readers, thank you for following and supporting us since our birth in April this year – We’re more than 8 months old as of today and it’s been a wonderful time cooking, writing recipes and sharing them online and receiving lots of positive feedback and encouragement from everyone; our friends, fellow bloggers, or even random strangers who’d accidentally stumbled here! It always amazes me to see readers from all over the world, just to name a few: Latvia, Yemen, South Africa, Myanmar, Russia… And so many more, how much cooler can this get! Thank you all very much :”)
Anyway, back to our Chai Tao Kway. Stay tuned on this space to see how this…
Could turn into this…
Plate of melt-in-the-mouth goodness! Stay tuned :)
Posted by #phangchewfat
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