It don't matter if it's black or white — carrot cake, that is. Or does it?
Fried carrot cake is a well-loved Singapore hawker favourite which comes in two varieties — black or white. The former is fried with a thick and sweet black sauce, lending the dish a sweet-savoury flavour adored by many Singaporeans.
But question is, does the addition of the sweet black sauce warrant a price increase of 50 cents to a dollar?
Some patrons certainly don't think so.
One Shin Min Daily News reader recently complained to the paper about the 'surcharge' for the price of the black carrot cake at Vegetable Oil Fried Carrot Cake, located at Teck Ghee Court Market & Food Centre in Ang Mo Kio.
The price of their white carrot cake starts from $3 for the small portion and $3.50 for the medium, while the large portion costs $6. The black carrot cake on the other hand, is correspondingly more expensive by 50 cents for the small and medium sizes, while the large costs $7 — a dollar increase.
A search of reviews online indicated that the price has remained unchanged since May of last year, at least.
When interviewed by a reporter from Shin Min Daily News, the stall's 60-year-old lady boss shared that the sweet black sauce used in the dish is what's responsible for driving up the price.
"The sauce I use is of a better quality, and it's especially expensive," she said, indicating that each bottle she buys costs $10.
"Everyone loves to eat the black carrot cake. If the price is the same, then I'll lose money," she added.
Her stall assistant, who did not wish to be identified, shared that although the black carrot cake costs more, it is still the more popular choice, with 60 per cent of their customers ordering it.
The owner added that the fish sauce which she uses in the dish is also different from what many other stallholders use.
When interviewed by Shin Min Daily News, however, other hawkers shared that there is "not much difference" in the cost price between both types of carrot cakes, which is why they don't see a need to differentiate prices. Both varieties are also just as popular with customers, they claimed.
One customer and fan of Vegetable Oil Fried Carrot Cake told the Chinese evening daily: "The carrot cake here is especially soft, and I love the black version so that's what I'll usually buy."
Based on several photos we've seen online, a sign pasted at the store front indicates that the stall uses "home made carrot cake".
Another customer who didn't mind the markup said that the main consideration for choosing to eat the black or white carrot cake should be one's tastebuds.
"Those who prefer less intense flavours will go for the white carrot cake. The price doesn't matter," said the 45-year-old woman.
And it looks like Vegetable Oil Fried Carrot Cake's boss has no intention of adjusting the prices.
"Many customers come for my home-made carrot cake as very few people make their own carrot cake these days. If they choose not to eat it because it's slightly more expensive, then it's their loss."