There is no hawker food staple like carrot cake or chai tow kway. The perfect breakfast food, crispy with almost burnt edges but still retaining that soft curd-like centre. Throw in an egg and that signature dark sauce, what could be better?
While hawker stalls selling chai tow kway are a dime a dozen, have you had one with bacon? Carrot Cubes tucked away in a coffee shop in Ang Mo Kio proves otherwise.
Carrot Cubes offers your usual selection of White Carrot Cake (S$3/S$4) and Black Carrot Cake (S$3/S$4). As well as your chai tow kway with a twist, Hottie Carrot Cake (S$4/S$5) and Bacon Cubes (S$5/S$6).
Carrot Cubes is run by Claire Huang, who has had quite the journey with this savoury delicacy. Claire was not always in the hawker trade but only switched over from her corporate job just over two years ago. Claire’s father is actually the one in the industry, supplying handmade carrot cake for over 20 years.
Claire’s father is one of the few suppliers that still makes his carrot cake in metal trays instead of industrial-sized plastic trays. I don’t have to tell you that anything handmade and in smaller batches always tastes much better.
Of course, the process of making and steaming carrot cake is backbreaking work. Claire tells me that her father only gets one day off a year. To lighten his load, Claire has taken up the task of selling her version of chai tow kway.
With not much experience serve up a good plate of chai tow kway, Claire sought help from her uncle who also peddles his version of carrot cake along Geylang Lorong 12. Claire shadowed her uncle for about a month to learn the ropes of how to prepare a plate of carrot cake.
It was quite a formidable task. As we all know, the way to a plate of good carrot cake is how it’s fried and a crucial element is controlling the wok hei. That means learning how to manage the temperamental fire and letting the cubes of chai tow kway char just enough. It’s quite the balancing act, one that takes years to master.
But she didn’t transition to hawker life straightaway. Claire being the business savvy individual, decided to start small with a few pop-ups at some food festivals to test the waters. As expected, her unique take on the humble carrot cake was a hit! That encouraged Claire to set up her stall in along Ang Mo Kio.
We’ll start off with the classic and very well-loved Black Carrot Cake and White Carrot Cake. Claire gave me half the usual portions so I can save space for her other creations.
I started off with the White Carrot Cake, my personal favourite. The radish curds were fragrant and had a good char to them. An impressive feat for someone who picked up the skill not too long ago.
Now for the Black version, each forkful was sweet and savoury; striking a good balance between sticky black sauce and garlicky chye poh bits. If need a little more of fiery kick, each plate is loaded up with a dollop of fragrant chilli for those who like it a little spicier.
Claire marinates her radish cubes in a vat of garlic, chye poh and oil which gives her chai tow kway a little more oomph.
Now, for the more exciting and unconventional flavours of carrot cake, presenting Hottie Carrot Cake and Bacon Cubes.
On first blush, Hottie Carrot Cake looks like your typical white carrot cake but they come with a generous dusting of Thai chilli flakes.
Don’t be fooled by their somewhat unremarkable hue of the chilli flakes, brought in specially from Thailand you bet they pack a mighty punch.
The inspiration behind this rendition actually stems from how Claire and her family enjoy their chai tow kway. And since her family enjoys it so much, she decided that it would be a great addition to her menu.
The Thai chilli flakes supply a good amount of heat that lingers on at the back of your throat. I found it dangerously addictive and as a spice lover, this hits the mark alright.
Now, on to the carrot cake I was the most excited for: Bacon Cubes! Bacon is no stranger in the realm of breakfast food, but traditionally it’s found in Western/European breakfasts.
The salty and fatty bacon complemented the garlicky radish squares quite well. The richness of the bacon added something little extra to this plate of chai tow kway. Each forkful tasted familiar and comforting but of course, with that delectable little twist to keep things interesting.
I dare say, Carrot Cubes has become one of my new favourite hawker stalls for carrot cake.
For Claire, the true test of her skill is the feedback from the old folks that frequent the coffee shop. So far, Carrot Cubes has managed to clinch that coveted seal of approval from their distinguished palates.
Besides the excellent chai tow kway, I applaud Claire’s determination and reasons behind setting up the hawker stall. The hawker trade is something that is so quintessentially Singaporean. Not to mention, it’s no secret that it is also a dying trade. With Carrot Cubes and many stalls alike, it’s an encouraging sign that more people are working to preserve this integral part of our culture.
With hawker stalls like Carrot Cubes that not only allows hawker food and culture to keep going but with their fresh and modern take on carrot cake, this ensures the hawker scene stays vibrant and continues for years to come.
Expected damage: $3 – S$7 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
339 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, Singapore 560339
339 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, Singapore 560339