I love carrot cake. I even remember the first time I ate one sometime in the 1990s— my father had taken my brother and me to Lavender Food Square and I was shocked when I took a bite and discovered it wasn’t sweet. Since then, Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake and stalls like it have helped me develop an appreciation for this savoury local wonder.
Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake just scraped through into our list of the 12 best fried carrot cakes in Singapore in mid-2022. It surprised me, though, when I discovered that we had never given it a full review.
Fortunately, it also gave me an opportunity to make my way down to the lengthily-named Upper Boon Keng Market & Food Centre and sample one of my favourite carrot cake dishes.
Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake is stall number 21 in the single-storey food centre. You can identify it from afar as the corner stall beside the central walkway that has a pretty long queue, especially if you visit before 9am or 9.30am.
The old uncle and auntie who run the stall make a good team. She has a ladle in each hand, tossing and chopping and turning the fragrant carrot cake with style as he handles orders and assists with plating. I seem to remember a time when he used to do a lot of the cooking himself.
The taste hasn’t changed, though, and that’s the most important thing.
What I tried at Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake
As with virtually every other stall that makes this wonderful Singaporean speciality, Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake makes both varieties. Their Carrot Cake (Black or White) (S$3/S$3.50/S$4) is reasonably priced for the serving size and comes with generous proportions of ingredients. I asked for one each of the S$3 versions.
There had been just 2 other people ahead of me in queue when I arrived slightly after 10am. However, it took almost 15 minutes to get my order because there were a number of people sitting around, waiting to tapau their carrot cakes.
You can try coming slightly later for faster service. However, it can be a risky tactic as they almost always run out before their stated 12pm closing time.
My plates arrived, the White Carrot Cake before its darker cousin. Which comes first is the luck of the draw— while the preparation of Black Carrot Cake has the extra step of adding sweet soy sauce, orders are handled in batches of one colour, then the next.
I always find the white variety of carrot cake a bit on the mild side. Of course, that does not mean that the White Carrot Cake here is at fault. It is made according to a tried-and-tested recipe that many people around me were enjoying that very minute.
Every ingredient, from the radish to the egg and even the shallot garnishing was present in generous amounts. It is made crispy on the outside and when you split the outer layers, steam comes wafting up appetisingly. I was enjoying simply looking at it for a while.
But then, the Black Carrot Cake arrived.
Can you see the burst of red at the bottom of the photograph? That’s a bit of hot chilli thrown in for good measure. The contrast between the sweetness of the sweet soy sauce and the heat of the chilli is amazing. Combine that with the well-cooked radish and the breath of freshness from the shallots and you begin to understand why Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake is so famous.
Part of the reason is the way in which the soy sauce takes ingredients from all over the wok and caramelises them into little crisp bits. This makes the crispiness of the Black Carrot Cake even more satisfying. Meanwhile, most of the radish remains soft and the combination of textures is very enjoyable.
I had no problems cleaning up both my plates.
I hadn’t been to Geylang Traditional Carrot Cake in some time and it was great to return. All the familiar tastes and aromas came rushing back.
You may notice that the old uncle and auntie have slowed down quite a bit now. The change is quite obvious and also a little sad. They’ve never compromised on their carrot cake, though. Every dish is just as delicious (especially the black one!) as I remember it ever being.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is their wonderful attitude. Neither of them speaks English, so communication is always touch-and-go. Still, smiles and laughs go a long way in endearing them to me and, hopefully, the feeling is mutual.
Expected damage: $3 – $4.50 per pax
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