Tuesday 12 October 2010

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)

I initially blogged a version of this sinful Malaysian favourite, most famously from the island of Penang, back in April 2009. Since then, after some extensive R&D (by that I mean making Arivind my taste test guinea pig until he gives it the thumbs up) we have decided that you should ignore the old one and use This Perfected Recipe instead!

Truthfully the only change is that the seasoning has been tweaked to contain both dark and light soy sauce in 3:1 proportions, as well as a touch of sugar. The literal meaning of "char" in Chinese is to stir-fry briskly over high heat (in this case until it is actually "charred" as it means in English), so the crucial key to success still lies in a super hot smoking wok, a large open flame and a very quick hand. Sorry but it has to be a wok and it has to be a flame; an electric stove and a normal Tefal or any other frying pan just won't provide the essential smoky "wok hei" (the fragrance imparted by a hot wok)- trust me, I've tried. You must also:

a)Make sure all the individual ingredients are already sliced/ washed/ chopped/ prepped before you start any cooking, ready to be tossed in fast-and-furious style. Too slow and stuff will burn!

b)Ventilate- put your cooker hood on at full blast, open all your windows etc to avoid setting off your smoke alarm (which I've done several times).

c)Use fresh hor fun/kuay teow where possible. As they usually come quite stiff and stuck together, make sure to soak in boiling water first to loosen the strands (don't just try to pry them apart as they will break). If you only have dried noodles, use less as it expands once boiled and cook according to the packet instructions first.

d)Make sure to drain the soaked hor fun/kuay teow thoroughly. Wet noodles beget soggy char kuay teow that won't char!

e)Fry single portions at a time to get the right texture and ratio of noodles to the other ingredients.

f)Put aside any concerns about healthy eating- if you're on a diet, char kuay teow and it's tasty lardy deliciousness are NOT for you :)

g)Be prepared for your entire house to smell like a hawker centre. I'd recommend closing off your bedrooms/any other areas you'd like to protect.

Happy cooking!

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)
*Makes 2 medium servings*

  • Pre-preparation
Soak 300g fresh hor fun/kuay teow in boiling water until noodles are softened and separated (if using dried noodles, cook according to the packet instructions first). Drain until as dry as possible using a colander or sieve.

Stir together 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp sugar in a small bowl to form the seasoning sauce and set aside.

Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Peel, devein and wash 8-10 medium prawns.

Thinly slice about 75g fishcake and 1/2 a stick of lap cheong (Chinese sweet dried sausages) into 8-10 pieces each. Some people use char siew (barbecued pork) or shredded crab meat too- do whatever you fancy.

Slice the green part of 2 stalks of ku chye (Chinese chives) into short lengths (roughly 3cm). Or if you don't have any, use spring onions instead like I did.

Rinse 2 small handfuls of beansprouts. (Tip: once you've opened a pack of beansprouts, store them soaked in cold water in the fridge. For some reason they'll last a few days longer that way!)

Place 2 eggs, your white pepper, your salt and your jar of chilli oil with shrimp within easy reach.

I'm not a fan at all but if you're really hardcore/can even find them, scrub a handful of si hum (blood cockles) until clean, blanch them quickly in boiling water to open then deshell them.

You are now ready to "char"!
  • Frying the Char Kuay Teow
Heat 2 tbsp of oil (or lard for a more authentic albeit more detrimental version) in a large wok over high heat until smoking.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients in the following order and fry briskly:

Half the pre-chopped garlic (1 clove)
4-5 prawns
4-5 slices each of the fishcake, lap cheong or char siew
1 heaped tbsp chilli oil with shrimps- get lots of bits not just the oil, and be prepared to start coughing as everything smokes up! Most people use normal chilli paste/sambal but I really favour the added kick and depth of shrimpy chilli oil.
Half the drained hor fun/kuay teow (should be about a large handful)
2 tbsp of prepared soy sauce-sugar seasoning
Dash of white pepper
Dash of salt

Push the noodles to the sides of the wok and break 1 egg into the middle. Scramble quickly and toss to mix.

Chuck in a small handful of fresh beansprouts.

Throw in half the sliced Chinese chive/spring onion strips.

Give everything a good last few tosses, then dish out onto a plate. Repeat the entire process with the remaining ingredients.

Serve immediately.


  1. Thanks a lot... now I crave bloody char koay teow! Sheesh.
    What more... I'm currently craving o-chien. Go perfect that recipe for me. :)

  2. Haha well the whole POINT of sharing a char kuay teow recipe is so that you can fulfil your char kuay teow craving! :)

    Have never been a fan of oh-chien for some reason, fried oyster omelettes just do nothing for me. But will let you know if I get round to it :)

    How've you been? Thanks for coming!


  3. See... I don't own a wok. And I have electric burners. It's a lose-lose situation here. Also, setting off the smoke detector distresses me... something about the loud beeping just makes me wanna throw things about and scream.
    I think I actually have a recipe for char koay teow though... in one of my cook books. Maybe it's a little more apartment-friendly. :)

  4. Oh. Yea I did emphasise how indispensable a flame/wok is didn't I... sorry :|

    Maybe a nearby restaurant? :)

  5. Try Singapore Garden's version, Fairfax Road near Swiss Cottage.

  6. Emmmm, your kway teow look so good...I'm salivating now just looking at the pics and reading the ingredients

  7. Oh wow!! Just in time, I'm making it for my family tomorrow. Just had everything in my fridge. Hopefully it turns out well. Hahaha, regardless of how long you have posted this, char keuy teow remains one of the best delicacy throughout the ages~ Thanks for the perfect recipe!!!