4.266 (White) Carrot Cake

-Cycle 4, Item 266-
28 (Fri) September 2013

(White) Carrot Cake


at Tanglin (Newton Food Centre)

-Central, Singapore-


The Singapore Diet: Day 2 (see previously 4.265 Chilli Crab).

Raffles Hotel is a hotel in Singapore.  Established in 1887, the oldest existing, always referred to as "iconic." One of the most expensive in the city.  Named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore.

Royal China is a Cantonese restaurant.  It's located in the Raffles.  On weekends, tables are available only by reservation.  As noted in yesterday's post, my Singaporean friend Bernard made reservations at a couple local restaurants on my behalf, including one at Royal China.  I was warned not to be a minute late, or I'd lose it.  In fact, when I gave my name at the counter, I was asked for a phone number for verification.  Left to my own devices, I wouldn't have chosen straight out Cantonese for a meal on the Singapore Diet, but I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.

Colonial architecture mostly still intact, a quaint juxtaposition to the surrounding glass-and-steel high-rise glitz of downtown.

A lot of young folk--"socialites," Bernard called them--being served by a staff of old folk.

Meal 4 / Venue 3: Royal China at Raffles Hotel.

Item 8: conpoy congee (3.5)
--classic Cantonese brunch dish, the creamy texture done to perfection here, but it could've used more conpoy.

Item 9: har gow (3.5)
--my personal index by which to assess any dim sum joint (see for example 2.330 Har Gow), the silky skins done to perfection here, but the shrimp were minced, not chunky.

 Item 10: chee cheong fun (2.5)
--generally one of my favorite dim sum items (when made with shrimp), the soft rice noodle done to perfection here, but the scallops were too mushy and bland to provide any sense of texture/taste contrast.

So, Royal China was largely hit, slightly amiss.  As noted above, the external technique was flawless in every case, but I had some minor issues with the how certain internal components were prepared.  Certainly high quality overall, though not worth the fuss.

Total: SGD 24.72 (about USD 20)

Demand for the drink is so high and constant that they make the base in bulk and just shake it with ice upon order; there's even a rack for all the shakers.

At SGD 27 (+ 2.70 tax) for the Original, the most expensive mixed cocktail that I've ever had.

It was okay, I guess, tasting exactly how it looks--fruity--not really my thing.

So long as I was in the building, I had a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, where the cocktail was invented in 1915.  When my mother used to own a cafe in Korea back in the 80s, the drink--a laughable shortcut version containing gin + grenadine + OJ--was one of the most popular items on the menu.  Come to think of it, as famous as the drink may be, I can't ever recall seeing or hearing or reading about it in any context outside of my mother's cafe.  Recent research suggests that the vast majority of Singaporeans have never tried a Singapore Sling.

Even shinier than Makansutra Gluttons Bay. 

After brunch, I purchased a book on hawker centres so that I could strategize the Singapore Diet to better effect.  A quick perusal of the book gave me an idea of the essentials items that I needed to try and where best to get them.  Regrettably, I realized that, with the exception of yesterday's chilli crab, and maybe the vegetable dishes, but only because I love stir-fried greens, everything else had been a waste of opportunity costs.

Newton Food Centre is a hawker centre.  It was the one hawker centre recommended by Bernard and listed several times in the book for various items.  Unfortunately, I hadn't read the fine print on hours, and the stalls that I'd come for were closed until later in the evening, so I had to make do with whatever was open.

Meal 5 / Venue 4: Tanglin at Newton Food Centre.

Carrot cake is a Singaporean radish and egg dish.  Though originating in China, where it's called "chai tow kway," carrot cake is now most famously regarded as one of, if not the, quintessential hawker item in Singapore.  Indeed, There's No Carrot in Carrot Cake is the title of a popular local book on hawker cuisine.  The primary ingredient is in fact daikon radish, grated and mixed with rice flour and baked into a jelly cake, the consistency somewhat like firm tofu but denser/chewier, and the taste, also like tofu, somewhat bland.  In Chinese, the terms for "carrot" and "radish" include the same root word "chai tow," the only difference being that "carrot" is prefixed "ang (red) chai tow"--coincidentally, the same is true in Korean--resulting in the odd misnomeric English translation.  Anyway, the cake is chopped into dice and cooked with eggs in one of two ways: (i) black, made with a sweet soy-based sauce and tossed with scrambled eggs, rougher texture and more intense flavor; (ii) white, made with fish sauce and fried flat into an omelette, crisper texture and lighter flavor.  According to my book, The End of Char Kway Teow and Other Hawker Mysteries, the first is more how it arrived from China, while the second is how it evolved in Singapore.  

Incidentally, the book that I'd initially purchased was Only the Best!  The ieat.ishoot.ipost Guide to Singapore's Shiokiest Hawker Food, mostly lists of dishes/stalls/locations, but I went back to the store and exchanged it for the other book, which also includes background and history, as well as highlights from the same lists, both books by the same author, Leslie Tay, a local blogger.  

Item 11: (white) carrot cake (2.5).

Based on a single experience, I'd say that carrot cake is pretty good, if unremarkable.  Ordering just "carrot cake," I got what appeared to be the white version, though the eggs were scrambled.  The pieces of radish cakes didn't contribute much flavor, just that squishy texture.  It went down very well with a can of Tiger Beer.  I'll try the black version before making a definite appraisal.

Total: SGD 4 (+ 4.50 for beer)

Meal 5 / Venue 5: Sheng Da BBQ Seafood at Newton Food Centre.

A bit full from the bulk of the carrot cake but rather dissatisfied by its blah, I wanted to get something light yet stimulating.

Item 12: sambal stingray (2.0)
--I found the sambal sauce to be bitterish, but the charred flavor was nice...

...and the stingray itself was sweet and tender with a bit of chew.

Total: SGD 10

The Auld Alliance is a bar.  Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland.  Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland.  Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland Currently, it's ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for the city, which is how I learned about it.

Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland.

The plan was to stop by for a drink or two and then off to a hawker center for dinner.  Not just any bar, but a whisky bar, specializing in single malts, 1000 varieties, 500 by the glass, mostly Scotch, every distillery in Scotland.  Anybody who knows me knows that I love single malts, more than food, more than all things in the universe combined and multiplied by infinity squared, even more than my sons, whom I'd trade no problem for a decent bottle each.  So I don't know what made me think that I'd be out of there after a drink or two.

Buying almost all of my single malts in duty free shops, which carry only a handful of the most famous/popular producers, I've never heard of, much less encountered or had a chance to taste, the vast majority of the whiskies out there.

I tasted 11 varieties.  Officially, each sampling was 2 cl, for a total of 220 ml.  Although the amount was way below my usual limit, I realized at that point that my palate had become anesthetized and could no longer really tell the difference.  Also, I was beginning to hit that happy zone where I get ambitious/adventurous, and devil-may-care with money, a dangerous combination in a place offering ultra-rare whiskies costing upwards of hundreds of dollars a pop.  I'll be back for sure someday--I might actually make a trip just for this place, fuck the food--so I wanted to leave something for next time.

A vertical of the Springbank, my all-time favorite.

The evening's best was this Strathisla 30.

The Glen Keith 40, distilled in 1970, bottled in 2010.

The Girvan 45, distilled in 1964, bottled in 2009--not a single malt but a pure grain whisky, which I wanted to try for comparison.

Comparing two different eras of Johnnie Walker Red Label--also not a single malt but a blended whisky--one from the 1970s, one from today, both totally different; I don't usually drink the stuff, but I was curious if it ever tasted good (no).

Another comparison, my day-to-day favorite The Glenlivet 12, also from the 1970s and today, also totally different.

Total: SGD 178 (+ 31.51 tax and service charge)

Meal 6 / Venue 6: Cosafe [delivery] [at The Auld Alliance]

I didn't want to drink on an empty stomach.  While the bar itself doesn't serve food, it has an informal delivery arrangement with an Italian restaurant next door.  The items on the menu didn't quite jibe with the conceptual vision of the Singapore Diet, but I wasn't about to leave all that whisky behind, just to grab a bite--like I said, whisky more than all things.

Crap, I forgot about the reservation at No Signboard Seafood.

Item 13: char-grilled squid (2.5).

Item 14: albondigas (3.0).

Fortunately, the food was reasonably good, not too pricy, and paired well with the whisky.

Total: SGD 31 (+ 5.49 tax and service charge)

Getting on the train before the midnight cutoff, I got back to Geylang and enjoyed the final meal/venue/item of the day at Lorang 9 Beef Kway Teow.  Located just two blocks from the hotel.  Despite the name of the place, its signature dish is beef hor fun, as recommended in my hawker book and confirmed by the server.

With so much awesome food available everywhere at all times, I can't understand why Singaporeans aren't all fat.

Meal 7 / Venue 7: Lorang 9 Beef Kway Teow

Item 15: beef hor fun (3.5)
--noodles, beef, gravy all ridiculously soft and luxurious.

Total: SGD 6


  1. Ooh that dim sum looked really nice. Haven't tried dim sum more than maybe 1 or 2 times, but all times it's been really f-cking awesome. I think I have to add Hong Kong to my list of future culinary destinations :)

    btw I like the 셀카 you made at the whisky bar!

  2. i used to think that HK was the ultimate food destination, but now i'm thinking that singapore has it beat. just so much more variety, and the hawker stalls make it so much easier. i'm not sure about high end restaurant dining, but at the more casual level, i'm picking singapore.

    selca not intentional.

  3. yeah that might be true. btw did you see any indian, tamil, etc dishes in the hawker centers? I think most of the dishes you had were of chinese origin?