I occasionally crave snacks and sweets from my homeland (Singapore) and this is one of the many things I miss from home. The chewy interior, crisp exterior and sweet and salty peanut filling never fails to satisfy me. It took me some time and many tries before finding a recipe and technique that produced similar min chiang kueh to the ones I can get back home.
I’ve suffered from digestive issues most of my life and recently realized that I might have a coconut intolerance. I usually have “tummy issues” after consuming most things coconut – milk, water, etc. As such, I’ve started to avoid foods with coconut in them (if I can help it) and so far my tummy has been okay.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to IKEA in Singapore, you must try the fried chicken wings – they are amazing! Apparently, IKEA Singapore sells more fried chicken wings annually than Swedish meatballs.
Bak chor mee or minced meat noodles is one of the hub’s favorite eats. It’s something he misses from home, and I thought I would try and recreate it here. There are a few challenges when recreating this dish, one being the lack of good fish cake here. I haven’t found a good one and am not willing to make it for the sake of a bowl of noodles. Maybe one day I might be crazy enough to do it, but not now. I did find something similar at my local Asian grocer – it was even from Malaysia. But alas, the fish cake (though it looks like the stuff you get at home), was too starchy and lacked the bouncy texture of the fish cake we get back home. So if you are in South-East Asia, be thankful you can get good (or at least decent) fish cake almost anywhere. Another challenge is the chilli sauce. If you are South-East Asian, you will know that we have different chilli sauces for almost every other type of dish. The hubs and I scoured the aisles of our Asian grocer, bought a bottle of what we thought might be the closest thing and nope, it wasn’t it. I did try a mixture of sambal and chilli oil and it was so-so.
Not to be confused with baked carrot cake (the one with cream cheese frosting), the Chinese fried carrot cake or chai tow kway as it’s known back home in Singapore is one of my favorite childhood dishes. A good fried carrot cake has plenty of garlic and salted radish (chai poh) and the “kway” has to be soft, not mushy, and able to hold it’s shape. You can get it black (fried with a sweet black sauce) or white (as pictured above). As a child, I liked mine black. Now, I prefer it white. Oh, it also doesn’t have any carrots in it – just white radish. Don’t ask me why it’s called carrot cake.
I was craving for some fried carrot cake and decided that I should try my hand making it. The first step was to get a hold of some pig fat to render me some lard – yes, fried carrot cake should be fried with lard. It just makes things taste better. The second step is to use a good, reliable recipe – Kitchen Tigress’ recipe is well-reviewed and I have a made a few other things on her blog with success.
To make fried carrot cake, the process starts the day before. You have to make the “kway/kueh”. Getting the texture right can be a little tricky, so I followed Kitchen Tigress’ recipe very closely. After steaming my kway for about an hour (20 minutes more than the recommended time), my kway was still “mushy”. I kinda started panicking, but the hubs told me to just let it cool and pray it solidifies. It did solidify as it cooled and the next morning (after refrigerating overnight), the texture was perfect. The hubs said he preferred the kway a little firmer, as such, I will try to cook it longer on the stove the next time round to remove more water. I, however felt the texture was just right.
Frying the carrot cake was relatively simple. The addition of beansprouts is not traditional – in fact I have never seen carrot cake in Singapore with beansprouts before, but a welcome change. The hubs liked the “freshness” the beansprouts gave to the dish. Feel free to omit it. The best part about making your own carrot cake is that you are able to control the amount of sugar, salt and fat added.
The hubs and I enjoyed the dish immensely and was reminded of home. So if you are craving for some fried carrot cake, try this recipe!
Chinese Fried Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway)
(taken from Kitchen Tigress; click here for recipe)
For the kway:
- 250g grated white radish (daikon)
- 480g water
- 150g rice flour
- 12g cornflour
- 12g wheat starch
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 220g water
For frying the carrot cake:
- 100ml lard, melted (if you don’t have lard, you can use vegetable oil)
- 40g minced salted radish or chai poh (rinse twice; soak 2-3 minutes in enough water to cover; taste and soak longer if too salty; drain)
- 20g garlic, peel and mince roughly
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Sambal chili, to taste (optional)
- 2-4 eggs, depending on the amount of kway you are frying
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, add to 4 eggs and whisk thoroughly, adjust amount if you are using more/less eggs
- 200g bean sprouts, rinse and drain thoroughly (optional)
- 40g spring onions, wash and chop roughly
- 1 tablespoon sweet black sauce or kecap manis (optional)
- To make steamed kway: The day before making the carrot cake – place radish in a small pot and add 480g water.
- Weigh pot and contents, taking note of the weight.
- Bring pot and contents to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, till radish is soft. This takes about 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let radish cool for about 10 minutes. .
- Weigh the pot and contents again. The target weight should be 100g lower than the initial weight. Add or remove water as necessary.
- Using a whisk, combine the rice flour, corn flour (starch), wheat starch, salt, oil and 220g water in a wok. Stir the batter till smooth.
- Add the liquid from the radish. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring at all times till batter is nice and creamy.
- Reduce the heat to low, add in the cooked radish and keep stirring till the batter is thick and resembles a thick porridge, Be careful not to overcook the batter till it is like dough.
- Transfer the batter into a lightly greased pan. I have used an 8-inch diameter round metal pan and a 9×9 inch square cake pan with success.
- Level and smooth top.
- Steam the batter for about 40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Let the steamed kway cool completely before transferring to the fridge.
- The next day, cut the refrigerated kway into bite-sized pieces before frying.
- To fry the kway: Heat a wok or frying pan till it is hot.
- Add 2 tablespoons of lard/oil, swirl to coat pan/wok and heat oil until it’s about to start smoking.
- Add enough kway to form a single layer and fry till kway is lightly golden brown on all sides.
- Add the salted radish and garlic. Add more oil/lard, if needed.
- Add soy sauce and fish sauce, mix well.
- Add the eggs and more oil/lard, if needed. Flip the eggs and kway when the bottom of the eggs are golden brown. Fry till the other side is golden brown.
- If you want your carrot cake to be spicy, add the sambal chili to taste. If you prefer black carrot cake, add 1 tablespoon sweet black sauce/kecap manis.
- Add in the bean sprouts and fry till sprouts are lightly cooked, about a minute or so.
- Add the spring onions, fry. Taste and adjust for seasoning using sugar and fish sauce.
- Serve on plate and garnish with more spring onions.
Roti prata as it is known in Singapore is also known as roti canai (I think in Malaysia). It’s one of my favorite breakfast eats when I go back home and I especially like it with onions inside. My MIL sent me a YouTube video of an Australian-Chinese lady (Poh) making Nyona chicken curry and roti canai. I was very excited to try it out as I am able to procure all of the ingredients here in the US. I haven’t tried the chicken curry recipe yet, as such the curry pictured above is from a pack bought in Singapore.
In Chinese or rather Singaporean cuisine, there are many different types of chilli sauces. For example, the chilli used to accompany chicken rice is not the same chilli used for wonton noodles or yong tau fu, or bak ku teh or…basically the list goes on. Pickled green chillies are commonly served with fried hor fun noodles, fried bee hoon, and wonton noodles. My dad kinda likes them with almost everything though. However, you would not be caught dead eating these chillies with say, chicken rice – it just doesn’t go. That being said, it’s hard to find these pickled chillies here in the US in Asian restaurants. If they are present, they are usually made with jalepenos, since the Asian green chilli (or the kind of chilli used back home) can’t really be found here. The closest chilli would be the Serrano. As such, if you live in the US I would recommend using Serrano chillies over jalapenos as they have a stronger kick. Do not use bird’s eye chillies (i.e., the small red/green chillies).
I’m not a huge fan of mee soto, which is a spicy noodle soup usually cooked with chicken. There are also many other variations. Wikipedia gives a quick summary. The mee soto that is commonly found in food courts in Singapore is usually too salty and laden with MSG. I often have to drink tonnes of water to quench my thirst after having a bowl of this stuff. The flavor is also very mediocre. However, I am a HUGE fan of the mee soto my friend’s mother makes. Honestly, it’s in a class of its own and it’s the ONLY mee soto I eat now, that is until she taught me how to make it. The secret is the particular spice mix she uses. Unfortunately, the spice mix is hard to find in Singapore, and sadly contains MSG. But, for some unknown reason, I’ve never felt super thirsty after eating this mee soto, so I presume the amount of MSG in the mix is minimal. Every time I go home, I always ask my friend to help me buy a few packets of this spice mix. Her mom will also lovingly make mee soto for me – and hers is still the best!
Bergedils are yummy potato patties present in Indonesian and Malay cooking. They are served as a snack, alongside noodles or floating in a bowl of soup. I haven’t really had them before in soup but a friend suggested making them to go along with the mee soto I was going to make. Boy am I glad I did. These patties are a match made in heaven with mee soto. They soak up (but do not disappear) the rich mee soto soup and provide a delicious accompaniment to the dish. You can also make these patties to accompany other dishes like curry and rice. Or you can just make these patties. There is something about fried potatoes – actually, I just think that there IS something about potatoes and how after eating some, you feel oh so good…!
Yu Sheng or Chinese raw fish salad is a Chinese New Year staple in Singapore. I’m not sure about Malaysia, but I know they also consume this dish there during the CNY season. It’s one of my favorites and I always look forward to eating it during CNY. I’m also proud to say that the recipe was invented by Singapore chefs, so it’s a true blue local dish.