The Chinese term ‘Char kuey teow’ means stir-fried flat rice noodles. It may have originated from China's province Guangdong but various versions of stir-fried rice noodles are found in many Southeast Asian countries. It was first sold by fishermen, farmers and cockle-gatherers throughout Southeast Asia. They used all the leftovers they had to create this dish and sell it to get extra income. In West Malaysia, char kuey teow is synonymous with Penang, a state in Malaysia. Today, it is one of the most popular dishes in Malaysia and Singapore. Although it may be just another stir-fried noodles recipe, the tips shared below will definitely help if you aim to have it just like those sold in the Penang hawker center.
How to pronounce char kuey teow?
Let us just agree that the pronunciation of char kuey teow itself is already a little tricky for non-Cantonese speakers. Just watch the video here if you want to listen to its correct pronunciation.
Char kuey teow sauce
Char kuey teow sauce is a special concoction which consists of soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Prepare this in advance to be kept refrigerated up to 3 months.
Recreate the ‘wok hei’ at hawker stalls
‘Wok hei’ means the breathe of the wok, in English. It refers to the hot air produced from the heat in a wok that gives the extra flavour to Chinese stir-fry dishes. With char kuey teow, you need to stir-fry the noodles at the highest heat. Using a cast iron wok would be the best as it captures and maintains the high heat. You'll need to be careful to burn the noodles with the extreme heat. That is why you need to be fast at stirring the noodles or else they would be burnt. A slightly charred taste is all we need for these noodles to have the smoky flavour for which they are famous for.
Preparing a plate of authentic char kuey teow just like those sold in Penang not only requires the right ingredients but also the correct techniques. I found that it is better to prepare it in small amount (that is one plate at a time) unless you have a big wok to work with or you are a true professional. I learned that the noodles turned soggy when too much sauce is added all at once.
Ingredients to add to char kuey teow
You may add chopped preserved vegetables, blood cockles or even fry the noodles using pork lard. You can enjoy it together with some raw 'sambal belacan' and a slice lime or calamansi.
Whichever way you like it, a plate of char kuey teow brings the taste of home to every Malaysian especially for those who are abroad.