PSA: Carrot cake (or chai tow kway, as it is locally called) in Singapore isn’t made of carrots. Neither is it a spiced layered cake with cream cheese frosting.
What it is however, is a breakfast dish that sees radish cubes — mixed with rice flour, water, and shredded white daikon — stir-fried with eggs, preserved radish, and fish sauce. As for its peculiar name, the Chinese term for radish literally translates to white carrot in English, and the name has stuck ever since.
The heritage dish can be had two-ways: the regular white version, or a sweetened, caramelised black version with lashings of dark soya sauce. These days, you can also get a mix of both on the same plate, but rather than simply saying “mixed” at the stall, we’ll let you in on a local tip — many stall owners name this order the “yuan yang“, which refers to a pair of mandarin ducks and signifies a faithful union.
While hawkers used to steam their own carrot cakes, the laborious work has given way to ordering the key ingredient from factories, albeit due to rising costs and the amount of effort that goes into making them by hand.
But we’re fussy with our hawker food, so only the best would do. Here, we’re sharing our favourite haunts that still make their own from scratch. Expect pillowy soft plates of carrot cake, each stir-fried to perfection.
The best old school carrot cakes you can find in Singapore:
(Hero and featured image credit: @hungryprincesscarol via Instagram)
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Besides being the spot for the “best satay in Singapore” (not our words, we’re just quoting Crazy Rich Asians), Newton Food Centre is home of many noteworthy stalls, including Heng Carrot Cake, which has served tourists and locals alike with delicious plates of carrot cake since 1971. The moist, fluffy cubes are steamed in-house, and are best had with the tangy chilli mix on the side.
(Image credit: @tonyfoodsage)
Now, Lau Goh Teochew Chye Thow Kway stands out from the rest here in that they don’t make their own cakes, but they’ve added a secret touch to their radish cubes that makes them worthy of this list. Here, stall owner Mr Goh has a special way of crushing the carrot cake so that its surface becomes crater-like, perfect for holding more preserved radish and fish sauce when frying. The result? A wonderfully soft texture that complements the slight crisp from the egg. Do note that Mr Goh — who took over the stall from his father (Lau Goh) — is hearing impaired, so be patient and use a mix of pointing and improvised sign language when ordering.
(Image credit: @ohpapergoat)
It’s not hard to find Fu Ming Carrot Cake in Redhill Food Centre — simply look out for the corner stall with a Mickey Mouse duo. The humble stall is led by a husband and wife duo who makes their own blend of radish and rice slurry to create melt-in-your-mouth cubes of carrot cake you won’t want to miss. While the stall serves up both the white and black version of the dish, our go-to order will have to be the black option, which is twice drizzled with black sauce for an extra hit of sweetness.
(Image credit: @professorchickenrice)
There’s only one thing on the menu here at Chey Sua Carrot Cake: white carrot cake. The first thing you’ll notice? How aesthetically pleasing these plates are; the neat pancake-like carrot cake is dished out to diners with an generous helping of egg. The smooth radish cubes are also homemade in old-school aluminium tins, which is then fried to perfection with orange carrot strips and preserved radish, creating crispy, fluffy, and delicious mouthfuls that require a second serving.
(Image credit: @driftsyndrome)
If you like your carrot cakes on the wetter side, you’ll best be having a plate at Hock Kee Fried Oyster. Yes, the sign seems to indicate that the oyster omelette is the key dish here, but they’re just as skilled when it comes to making stellar carrot cakes too. They craft their carrot cakes from scratch, so whether you choose between the fluffy white option, plated with a generous serving of egg, or our personal favourite, the caramelised, sweeter black option, you’re in good hands. Can’t decide? Get a half-white and half-black serving for the best of both worlds.
Crispy and chunky radish cubes are one of Bukit Merah View Carrot Cake’s most defining traits. After all, if they can take the effort to mill their own rice before cooking it with the white radish, then you can bet that the on-point texture of the carrot cake is what’s driving customers here to come by time and time again.
(Image credit: @dq_sg_ken)
Lim Hai Sheng Cooked Food serves diners some of the best homemade carrot cake in Ang Mo Kio — full of fluffy eggy goodness and crunchy carrot bits. We also love how the stall incorporates a method of misting fish sauce on the carrot cake while frying for an extra burst of savoury goodness with every bite. They used to only serve white carrot cake but they’ve started to include the black carrot cake option two years ago.
(Image credit: @serenetomato)