KitchenTigress: Chai Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake)

Chai Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake)

Chai tow kway is a popular breakfast dish in Singapore. It's made with rice flour batter that's steamed, cooled, then fried. The kway may be seasoned with sweet black soya sauce to make black chai tow kway, or without to make the white version. Black or white, chai tow kway is best eaten piping hot.

Steamed kway is very soft when it's hot. It must cool down and harden before it can be fried. Chai tow kway should be soft again after it's fried, but not mushy. Frying over high heat with eggs and strong seasoning transforms bland steamed kway into yummy fried kway with an irresistible fragrance.

The steamed kway's texture is crucial to the success of chai tow kway. To get the right texture, the ratio of flour to water is crucial.

The type of flour used is important too. I use a mix of rice flour, wheat starch and cornflour.

Besides flours, there's also a bit of oil in the batter. An oil-less cake would be gritty, not smooth.

Before the batter is steamed, it has to be heated over the stove till it's thick. The thick consistency prevents the flour from sinking. If you steam your kway without thickening it first, it'll have a hard layer at the bottom.

The consistency of the thickened batter affects the consistency of the kway after it's fried. If the batter is too thick, the fried kway will be too hard. If the batter is too thin, the fried kway will be mushy. You must learn to judge when the thickness of the batter is just right.

After the steamed kway is cooled down and hard, it's time to fry it. To get the frying part right, you need good quality ingredients. How fragrant is the garlic you buy? What about the spring onions, chai poh, eggs, fish sauce and light soya sauce? Your CTK can't possibly be fragrant if the ingredients are substandard. Good quality stuff would need just high heat and sufficient time to brown properly to give you kick-ass CTK.

You know what's the least important ingredient in chai tow kway? It's radish. The subtle taste is overwhelmed by the strong seasoning added during frying over high heat. The batter may be made without radish if you like.

How to make chai tow kway

Step-by-step guide

Chai tow kway is made with rice flour batter that's steamed, cooled, then fried. It may be seasoned with sweet black soya sauce to make black chai tow kway, or without to make the white version. Black or white, chai tow kway is best eaten piping hot. This recipe uses vegetable oil because that's what most people have. Traditionally, chai tow kway is fried with lard.

chai tow kway (fried carrot cake)

Steamed kway
  • 250 g grated white radish
  • 480 g water

  • 150 g rice flour
  • 12 g cornflour
  • 12 g wheat starch
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 220 g water
Fried kway
  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 40 g minced chai poh (菜脯, salted radish), Twin Rabbit brand – rinse twice, soak 2-3 minutes in enough water to cover, taste and soak longer if too salty, drain thoroughly
  • 20 g garlic – peel, mince roughly
  • 2 tsp light soya sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • sambal (chilli paste) to taste

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp light soya sauce – add to eggs, whisk thoroughly
  • 200 g bean sprouts – rinse, drain thoroughly
  • 40 g spring onions – wash, chop roughly

  1. To make steamed kway, place radish in a small pot. Add 480 g water. Weigh pot and contents. Take note of weight. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, till radish is soft, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove cover. Wait till evaporation stops, about 10 minutes. Weigh pot and contents again. Weight should be lower by 100 g. Top up with water or discard excess liquid as necessary.

  2. Whilst radish is simmering, assemble rice flour, cornflour, wheat starch, salt, oil and 220 g water in a wok. Stir batter till smooth. When radish is ready, add radish liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, till batter is creamy. Add cooked radish. Continue cooking and stirring, reducing heat to low as batter thickens, till batter is thick but not thick enough to hold its shape. Pour batter into 18 x 5 cm round cake pan. Level and smooth top.

    🌹 If you have difficulty smoothing the batter, that means it's too thick and your kway will be hard. If the top is smooth without human assistance, the batter is too thin and your kway will be mushy.

  3. Steam batter over rapidly bubbling water till cooked, i.e. inserted skewer comes out almost clean. This takes about 40 minutes.
  4. Remove cake from steamer. Leave till cool. Refrigerate overnight. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

  5. To fry kway, heat well-seasoned wok till very hot. Place 1/3 of oil in the wok. Heat till just smoking, swirling so that oil coats bottom of wok.

  6. Add steamed kway. Spread in a single layer. Fry over high heat till lightly golden. Turn over. Drizzle with a little oil. Fry till second side is also lightly golden, stirring to check if it is.

  7. Add chai poh and garlic. Drizzle with more oil. Stir to mix thoroughly. Drizzle with 2 tsp light soya sauce and 1 tsp fish sauce. Stir thoroughly. Alternate frying and stirring till kway is nicely brown and aroma of chai poh is released, drizzling with more oil when wok looks dry.
  8. Add eggs, followed by yet more oil. Turn over when bottom of eggs is golden brown, pressing lightly with spatula after flipping to help eggs stick to kway. Fry till golden brown again.

  9. Add sambal. (If you prefer black CTK, add sweet black soya sauce now, about 1 tbsp per portion.) Stir till thoroughly mixed.

  10. Add bean sprouts, then more oil. Stir till bean sprouts are heated through but not wilted.

  11. Add spring onions, leaving aside 1 tbsp or so. Stir through. Quickly taste and, if necessary, adjust seasoning with pinch of sugar if too salty or a few drops of fish sauce if too bland. Plate, sprinkle with remaining spring onions and serve immediately.