Photo: Elly Chaw

The ubiquitous carrot cake dish that Singapore is known for can be found in many a hawker centre but their little cousins, carrot cake sticks, are a rarity. Whether they be slender or square-shaped, these fried pieces of heaven (crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside) are known mostly to the older generation of Singaporeans, but really should be known by all.

Mainly made out of radish, rice flour, and salt, blocks of radish cake are first cut into strips by hand or by machine. They are then deep-fried in a huge wok of oil, and are served piping-hot. To the uninitiated, they would seem to be a Singapore-styled french fry — a savoury, salty and sinful treat. Oh, and we think they taste great with chili sauce, too.

We sussed out the best (and maybe only) places to go for these deep fried snacks. Each of the hawkers we spoke to gets up in the wee hours of the morning to prep their ingredients for the day. And, as we discovered on our food trail, these stalls open for business early — like 4am early in some cases — and then shut by 12pm, having sold out of their goods. Read on, and prepare to munch.

 

1. Chai Chee Cai Tou Guo 

Photo: Elly Chaw 

Located in Bedok North Market, this small stall sells only three varieties of food — yam cakes, carrot cake pieces, and carrot cake strips. The constant line of customers is testament to how good these are. Blocks of radish cakes are first cut using a hand-crank machine that (according to a stall employee) is nearly 60 years old.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

The strips are then neatly assembled on a large metal grill before they’re fried for about 2 minutes.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

The result is a crunchy carrot cake stick that’s surprisingly soft and tender on the inside. This stall is notable for producing carrot cake sticks with a crisp, golden-brown exterior, and are not overly oily. The cost? Just $2 for 12 pieces.

Where: #01-55, Blk 216 Bedok North Street 1 Market and Food Centre. Open every day from 6am to around 12pm, or when the food runs out.

 

2. 103 Delicious Kueh & Cakes (Vegetarian)

Photo: Elly Chaw 

This stall got its start over 60 years ago as a push-cart business that offered traditional homemade delicacies along the streets of Tanjong Pagar. In the 1990s, the stall owner — who only wanted to be known as Mr Chan — took over the business after his father passed away.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

At this North Bridge Road stall, which serves up only vegetarian items, you’ll see giant ondeh ondehs, kueh lapis, ang ku kuehs, and of course, carrot cake sticks ($1 for 7 perfectly fried sticks). Where some carrot cake dishes don’t feature a strong flavour of radish, that’s not the case here. The delicate radish taste coupled with a slight exterior crunch promises that you’ll be hooked from first bite.

Where: North Bridge Road Market and Food Centre #01-103. Open every day from 3am to around 1 pm (or until the stall runs out)

 

3. 福記熟食 (Vegetarian)

Photo: Elly Chaw 

Big on crunch? This vegetarian stall at Sims Place is for you. Mr Ng Ah Hock, who turns 62 this year, has been running the stall with his wife for more than 20 years. All the delicacies found here — like spring rolls and tiny pancakes — are fried only in vegetable oil. Here, carrot cake comes in different shapes and sizes, from mini-rectangles to carrot cake sticks. Each stick is hand-cut from a block that’s sourced from a supplier.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

The rectangular ones ($1 for 4 pieces) are easily devoured in two bites. The carrot cake sticks, at $1 for 10 sticks, are a a toothsome treat with a super-crispy exterior that gives way to a soft, tender core with a hint of savoury radish flavour. The contrast of textures leaves you wanting more.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

Where: #01-69 Sims Vista Market & Food Centre. Open from 4am to around 1pm (or until the stall sells out). Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

 

4. Tian Cheng Food

Photo: Elly Chaw 

“Every single item we sell here is home-made,” says stall owner Susan Yeo, who’s been running the stall together with the help of her husband since the 1960s. Their experience shows — these sticks are charmingly chubby, and perhaps more importantly, are made from scratch. Madam Yeo, 67, makes the dough herself, combining rice flour and radish and leaving it to settle into a sticky block.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

The sticks are hand-cut and then fried, producing a carrot cake stick with a soft, delightfully chewy consistency. You pay $2 for 10 carrot cake sticks. However, these are strictly a weekend treat, as they’re unavailable on week days.

Where: #02-42 Tiong Bahru Market. Open every day from 8am to around 12pm (or until the stall sells out). Carrot cake sticks are sold only on weekends, from around 9am.

 

5. Dong Jin Yuan Dian Xin

Photo: Elly Chaw 

Here at Dong Jin Yuan, lines are long for the carrot cake sticks, which are affectionately referred to as “carrot fingers”. The sticks are fried in small batches, and go for $2 for 12 fingers (with a minimum order of $2).

Photo: Elly Chaw 

The stall owner, who wanted to be known simply as Mrs Neo, mentioned that regular customers include fans who’ve been eating these carrot fingers for some 30 years, and who now have their own children in tow when they come to buy these morsels. Each carrot finger is fried to crisp perfection, and there’s a flavourful, slightly sweet taste of radish that lingers on the tongue.

Location: #02-04 Hougang 105 Hainanese Village Centre. Open from 4am to 11am on Thursdays and Fridays, and 4am to 12.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Closed from Monday to Wednesday.

 

6. Deep Fried Carrot Cake 

Photo: Elly Chaw 

In the midst of the bustling Whampoa Market area is a stall with a name that proudly proclaims its wares. The stall owner, who only wanted to be known as Mr Lim, has been keeping busy for the past 21 years here. He runs the stall alone — which means that he does all the machine-cutting, frying, packing, and washing up on his own.

Photo: Elly Chaw 

Each carrot cake stick has a distinct crunch as you take a bite. Priced at $2 for 14 sticks and $3 for 21 sticks, these goodies tend to run out very quickly so be sure to be an early bird if you want to get your hands on a bag.

Where: #01-36 Block 90 Whampoa Market. Open every day from 6.30am to around 10am (or until the stall runs out). Closed on the 1st and 15th day of every month of the Chinese calendar.

 

ALSO READ: HERE'S HOW YOU CAN MAKE KACANG PUTEH AT HOME