Contrary to its name, there's nary a tinge of orange in the local fried carrot cake, a flavourful dish that comes in the monochrome colours of black or white.
Do not confuse this with the dessert carrot cake, a moist cake made with carrot and spices; covered with cream cheese frosting.
This savoury carrot cake has no carrot, at least not of the orange variety. Instead, the core ingredients of the cake are rice flour and white radish which some call white carrot. The mixture is steamed, then cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called 'chai poh'.
Commonly referred to as 'chai tow kway' in the Teochew dialect, these smooth and soft fried rice cakes can be found in almost every hawker centre. It is served black (fried with sweet dark soya sauce) or white (original).
Chinese rice cake
The simple dish has its origins in Southern China’s Chaoshan province. There, it is known as 'chao gao guo' (fried starch cake) which is made mainly with rice flour. 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.
Brought over to Singapore by Teochew immigrants, it was known as 'char kway' (fried rice cake), which was simply cubes of rice cakes fried with dark soya sauce.
Teochew hawker Ng Soik Theng claims to be the first to have called this dish 'chai tow kway' in the 1960s when she added white radish to it. Another hawker, Lau Goh, is said to have popularised the white version.