Fried carrot cake is a popular Teochew dish that can be found in many hawker centres and food courts in Singapore. Smith (2018) said that fried carrot cake is made with diced daikon radish, which can be replaced by taro, stir fried with egg and fish sauce. This dish is usually served with chili and green onion and can be ordered white with light soya sauce or black with dark soya sauce. This is unlike the American dessert that is actually made from carrots and served with cream cheese icing.
This dish is originally from Chaoshan, China and is known as rice cake or starch cake. It was made originally with rice flour and milled puffed rice and marinated with fish sauce and sweetened dark soya sauce. They were fried with eggs and seafood like oysters and prawns and served with spicy barbeque sauce and sugar. This dish was introduced by Teochew immigrants and is known as fried rice cake at the 1950s. The dish is just dark soya sauce and rice cake cubes which is much simpler compared to the fried carrot cake nowadays. Ng Soik Theng, a Teochew hawker claimed to be the first to introduce radish to the dish and renamed it “fried carrot cake” in the 1960s. Owner of the popular white carrot cake stall located at People’s Park in 1970s claimed the white version of the carrot cake. He combined radish and rice flour paste but did not add the preserved radish (Tan, 2013). White radish does not have a word in Teochew, so Singaporeans just loosely called it carrot.
Fried carrot cake is a savoury dish that can be eaten for breakfast, both the white and black versions. is also a comfort food for Singaporeans that can be eaten for practically all meals from breakfast to supper. Fried carrot cake can be served as a main meal or side dish with other dishes (Rennick, 2018). This is supported by Mr Lee (personal communication, November 25, 2018), one of the stall uncles working at Warong Kim’s Goreng Delights at the hawker centre in Our Tampines Hub. He said that there is no specific time when customers usually buy fried carrot cake and it seemed to be equally popular for all meals. Both versions are equally popular at the hawker stall and customers generally just order what they are craving for.
Fried carrot cake is one of the popular and iconic local dishes in our hawker culture. It is an important part of Teochew cultural heritage, with many families enjoying and preparing this dish during special occasions with recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. It is also part of Singapore’s national identity and can bring fond memories for all generations. It is a reminder of Singapore for Singaporeans overseas. Some Singaporeans living and working overseas would say that they will miss hawker food most while overseas. The open-air hawker centres are a place where all Singaporeans from all walks of life can eat hawker food from different cuisines at the same table regardless of social class or income. The variety of food and diners can surprise foreigners who were on their first visit to Singapore and is considered miraculous (Wan ; Hiew, 2010).
However, hawker culture is slowly dying. This is can be caused by high rental and lack of interest in the younger generation. For the hawker centre at Our Tampines Hub, monthly rental for 3 of the stalls is $3000, another one stall is $1500 while the rest of the stalls are at $2000 every month. There are also additional monthly costs to hire night shift workers, centralised dishwashing and cleaning costs. Hawker vendors are paying $3000 monthly for a 10% food discount that was to attract more customers. This cause hawkers to increase the price of their food causing number of customers to drop (Ong, 2018). Younger Singaporeans might be reluctant to enter the hawker business because of the high costs, the increasingly long working hours and a lack of training programmes. Money is needed to set up a hawker stall and to sustain it for at least 3 months. Some people may not be able to make a profit or even breakeven until after 3 months. There are also not many available locations for new hawkers to set up at hawker centres. Most aspiring hawkers wanted more experience before starting their own business but there is a lack of opportunities to learn about cooking and entering the hawker business.
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Smith, A. A. (2018). Of Nutrients and Nourishments. Capturing Quicksilver: The Position, Power, and Plasticity of Chinese Medicine in Singapore (pp. 218). Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.tp.edu.sgWan, R. ; Hiew, R. (2010). There’s no carrot in carrot cake. (pp. 11) Singapore: Epigram Book
Tan, B. (2013). Carrot cake. Retrieved from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2013-06-05_182217.htmlRennick, L. (2018). Singapore’s carrot cake is not what you think it is. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2017/01/03/singapores-carrot-cake-not-what-you-think-it
Ong, I. (2018). Rental of $3,000 for hawker stalls not representative. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/rental-of-3000-for-hawker-stalls-not-representative
Selfie with the food