Fried Carrot Cake with Prawns
This fried carrot cake with prawns was my solo breakfast during one of the WFH weekdays. I’ve been working from home for more than 2 months! At first, I was doing mostly take-outs and pick-ups, but now that I’m used to the routine, I’m entertaining myself by making my own meals everyday.
Fried carrot cake is better known as “chai tow kway” (菜头粿) locally. It is made from cutting steamed carrot cake into cubes, then stir-frying them with preserved turnips, minced garlic and fish sauce. There are black as well as white versions. The one I’m making here is the white version, and I’ll post my favourite black chai tow kway next week!
To me a decent plate of nicely home-cooked fried carrot cake (white version) just needs to have some nice crusty browning; I’m going really easy on myself :p
I remember the white chai tow kway at People’s Park Food Centre was really perfect because it was super crispy on the outside, while soft when bitten into. Sadly, I haven’t been there for years. So I’ll have to make do with my too simple home-cooked plate :P
INGREDIENTS FOR FRIED CARROT CAKE (PRAWNS)
1. READY-MADE CARROT CAKE FROM SUPERMARKET
I bought this ready-made steamed carrot cake from Sheng Siong supermarket. It’s inexpensive – this smallest pack I bought cost less than S$2 which serves 3-4 persons. You can go for premium restaurant carrot cake which contains dried scallops & dried shrimps. But I’m pretty content with this supermarket carrot cake because it is very accessible. It also does not contain preservatives and can be kept at room temperature until it is opened, which are all plus points for me.
For those unfamiliar with this dish, you may wonder why the steamed carrot cake is white and not orange. That’s because the ‘carrot’ refers to daikon (radish) aka “white carrot”. Sometimes, the cooked steamed carrot cake also comes with splatters of grated orange carrot.
2. PRAWNS (SHRIMPS)
Since I lacked the wok hei & culinary skill of the hawkers, I made up for it by adding prawns to my carrot cake so that it was a bit more sumptuous :P
I’m cheating with frozen cooked shrimps I bought from Cold Storage. I love the convenience of not peeling & de-veining the prawns. If you are using cooked prawns like mine, just thaw them overnight in the fridge, then throw them into the pan.
If you are using raw prawns, good for you! The umami juices of the prawns as they cook in the pan will enhance the flavour of the carrot cake :)
PRESERVED TURNIPS (CHAI PO)
This is salted preserved turnips aka “chai po”. Fried carrot cake cannot do without this special ingredient – they add a salted savoury depth and a nice crunch with every bite. If you got the same brand of chai po as me, be careful, as it is very salty by default. If you used the preserved turnip straight from the bag, or only with one quick rinse, the entire fried carrot cake dish (especially the white version) will likely taste like salt.
So what I do is to soak the required amount of preserved radish in a ramekin of water for about 5-10 mins, then taste test a small piece to check that the saltiness is now to your liking. If not, soak for another 5 minutes. When satisfied, drain the preserved radish it in a strainer and pat dry on paper towels. Don’t oversoak, otherwise they will become tasteless.
I actually do this in a bigger batch, so that I will have one week’s worth of prepared radish in a small container to keep in the fridge.
An easier way if you don’t wish to soak is to rinse the turnip in a few changes of water until satisfied with the saltiness by doing the same taste test, then pat dry on paper towels.
Heat a bit of oil, pan fry the prawns until cooked and set aside on a plate.
Add lard oil (mine is solidified as I kept it in the fridge) or any regular cooking oil. Add cubed carrot cake and try to lightly brown them on one side.
Push the carrot cake to the sides. Add crispy lard pieces (optional), preserved turnip, minced garlic and a bit more oil. Stir fry evenly until fragrant.
Add chilli (if you want some heat). Some prefer to add the chilli at the side of the plate of the completed fried carrot cake dish, so you can do that too. Drizzle some fish sauce over.
Add cooked prawns and stir fry to mix everything well. Then arrange the contents one layer in the pan. Pour a beaten egg over…
This is the fun part (to me)! My easy way of making fried carrot cake is to treat it like making an omelette. Just slide the egg around the non-stick pan to allow the egg cook more evenly. Let the “omelette” brown on one side first.
Then cut the carrot cake omelette to smaller pieces, flip them over to brown on the other side. Here’s the completed dish in the pan.
Plate it out and garnish with spring onions to serve!