food

Fried Carrot Cake, Clementi 448: “A storied institution in its own right.”

Last Updated: September 15, 2021

Written by Ping Er

I don’t think I’ve had a plate crack before my eyes at any dining establishment, but Fried Carrot Cake was a first. At any rate, it does set the mood for my next Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre adventure. 

I’m a stark creature of habit when it comes to food choices. Once I find something I like, I stick to it until I outgrow it. Of course, one can only eat TeoChew Fish Porridge that many times in a month, so it’s about time to find a new muse.

Welcome to another round of generically named stalls at Clementi 448.

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I did have my reservations about Fried Carrot Cake. After all, they have a whopping grand total of two dishes on their repertoire—white carrot cake and black carrot cake. Even someone as content with habitual eating as me would think twice about committing to such a pared-down menu. 

But, popularity at hawker stalls measures volumes and queues are the unit to this metric. Fried Carrot Cake has long stood out in my memory for commanding a snaking queue. In complete candour, it sounds like an intimidating wait, and I’ve never had the strength of character to commit.

Yes. I realise that’s two paragraphs dedicated to commitment. Yes, I have a problem.

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Intellectually, I know I’ll probably enjoy those piping hot chunks of mixed radish cake and fried egg. Spiritually, I lose to my lower self’s need for instant gratification. 

But that’s the me of the past. The present me has resolved to withstand the heat and patience required to become the official Clementi Correspondent for SethLui.com. 

A bit of pre-lunch nosing tells me that Fried Carrot Cake is a third-generation hawker stall that began as a pushcart in the sixties. Now helmed by the founder’s son and grandson, their stall has become a fixture in Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre.

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They fry their carrot cake in batches, so the wait can extend to 45 minutes. With each new batch, the stallholder will go down the line taking orders on a little clipboard. Knowing their decades of history and their simple menu, that little clipboard is—with all endearment and no patrony—incredibly adorable. Everything at Fried Carrot Cake seems so down-to-earth all while radiating a host of intense strength, heat, and skill. 

I was lucky; I got to Fried Carrot Cake right as the last of the previous batch was being sold. That meant I had the privilege of standing first in line to watch a new batch of carrot cake be prepared.

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There are two massive woks in their set-up, with a deep tin of oil in the middle. The chopped radish cakes go through a first round of frying with chye poh (preserved radish) before they are transferred to the left wok. Here, the cook expertly pats the mixture down before adding eggs over. 

He must have added at least 20 eggs to the mix, all languidly cracked one-handedly into a bowl before being poured over the sizzling wok. Watching him deftly wield two spatulas to manipulate the food is like watching a choreography of skill.

Near the tail-end of frying, a portion of the mixture is separated for black carrot cake. A copious amount of soy sauce follows to coat every morsel as it continues to fry.

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The plates are quickly dished out, burning hot. I bring mine to a table just in time to watch a crack loudly appear in one of them. Not to worry—it doesn’t shatter, and no one gets hurt. But if that’s not the epitome of culinary intensity, I don’t know what is.


What I tried

Fried carrot cake, like many foods, has the polarising effect of splitting its fans into camps. I’m a staunch proponent for white fried carrot cake, which ironically makes me the black sheep of my family. 

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So, to give the Black Fried Carrot Cake (S$3 for small) a fair go, I begin on a clean slate. It’s darkly sweet from the soy sauce, which is nice if you prefer sweeter flavours. 

To me, however, it still betrays the qualities that I find less enjoyable in black fried carrot cake, which is that the sweetness overpowers the original flavours of the mixture. Because of that, the fragrance from chye poh, radish cakes and egg are all masked by sweetness. Within two bites, the dish becomes placidly homogeneous. 

A smidge of chilli helps to balance this out with a slash of salt and spice. In fact, I reckon the Black Fried Carrot Cake would be nicer fried with chilli to bring out the aromatics in the heat. The chilli crucially adds dynamism to the fried carrot cake at this stall. 

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I hate to give up too much stomach space for black carrot cake, though, so I quite rapidly move on to the White Fried Carrot Cake (S$3)

This variation allows its components to shine, so there’s more nuance in the overall flavour. I can taste an underlying smokiness, the distinct sweetness and savouriness from the chye poh, and feel the soft plainness of the radish cake against crisp fried egg. 

Needless to say, I remain an ardent supporter of white fried carrot cake, au natural, s’il vous plaît. Oui oui.

Final thoughts

Fried carrot cake really is a sharing dish. At this stall, you can get yours in three sizes at S$3, S$4 or S$5. Just remember to never overestimate your capacity for fried carrot cake. In my worst moments of naive folly, I’ve tried having an entire plate of fried carrot cake as a meal, and it’s never ended well. 

The portions here are very generous, even at the smallest size, so I recommend either sharing or packing the extras.

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Fried Carrot Cake at Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre has become a storied institution in its own right. As I queued, an old man sat down opposite the youngest stallholder, who was having his lunch in front of the stall. If my eavesdropping is anything to go by, Fried Carrot Cake has installed itself in residents’ consciousness, and people around here know it. 

That works for me—after all, to those of you who thrive on habit as I do, this is exactly the kind of institution we depend on.

Expected Damage: S$3 – S$5 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Fried Carrot Cake

448 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-45, Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre, Singapore 120448

Price
Our Rating 5/5

Fried Carrot Cake

448 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-45, Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre, Singapore 120448

Operating Hours: 6am - 6pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

Operating Hours: 6am - 6pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

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