I love fried radish cake (incorrectly termed fried carrot cake in Singapore) - a Hokkien street food of pale cubes of steamed pudding made from rice flour, tapioca flour and finely-grated radish, pan-fried in lard till crisp on the outside, whilst soft & moist on the inside. In Singapore, it's called "chai tow kway", whilst in Penang, it's "char koay kak".
The Singapore one comes in two different variations: the "white" chai tow kway fried with salted radish and eggs, and the "black" chai tow kway" where sweet, dark soysauce is added. Eggs will be added to both versions, and sometimes, shrimps as well.
The Penang version is greasier than its Singapore cousin, with copious amounts of lard and dark (not sweet) soysauce, salted radish, eggs and beansprouts (which is not present in Singapore versions).
In Vietnam, the same dish is known as bột chiên, and is a very popular snack (it's never regarded as a "main meal" item) not only amongst Vietnam's Hokkien (Fujianese) populace, but with everyone.
We went to Bột Chiên Đạt Thành along Vo Van Tan this evening. It's an extremely noisy and permanently full eatery - whose waitresses seemed to have been hired solely for their loud voices. Orders are screamed across the single unit shoplot - I understood that the 30-year-old establishment used to occupy two shoplots, but the landlord of the adjoining unit decided to he wanted his premises back. Bột Chiên Đạt Thành was not in the least fazed - its dining area now spans the second floor as well, although one would prefer to occupy the ground floor where all the "action" is.
Bột chiên differs from its Singaporean and Malaysian cousins in three ways: (1) the steamed cubes of steamed rice/tapioca cakes, when pan-fried, seemed to have much chewier exteriors, (2) there's no hint of salted radish being used to flavour the dish, and (3) the dish is served with shredded green papaya and pickled carrots & white radish, to undercut the richness/greasiness of the dish. Other than that, the bột chiên is very much similar to both "chye tow kway" and "char koay kak", with lots of eggs and lard used in the frying process.
The eatery also offers a yam/taro cake version - the steamed yam/taro cake are just as soft in texture as the radish version, but a whole lot tastier and more fragrant.
The eatery is located on the very busy Vo Van Tam Street in District 3.
Bột Chiên Đạt Thành
277 Võ Văn Tần
Phường 5,Quận 3
TP. Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +08 38 334 980 - 0909 635 526