Penang Char Kuay Teow (Home Version)

Friday, March 23, 2012

I added Mee to my home version
So why in the world do you want to make Char Kuay Teow at home?

It is readily available in almost every food court. Even the Penang ones are appearing all over Singapore these days.

Some still prefer to fry them at home. I venture to explain some of the possible reasons:
  • They like to turn their homes into smokehouses.
  • They want a romantic evening, gazing hazily at each other, with the song "Smoke gets in your eyes" in the background
  • They want to try out different ingredients. Such as foie gras, truffle oil or lobster meat. Oyster in place of cockles. Instead of lard, they prefer the apparently healthier la graisse de canard (duck fat!)
  • They dislike queues (and the better CKT stalls always have queues - I call these the Char Queue Teow stalls - CQT).
  • They dislike the CQT man who always scowl with a 'take it or leave it' attitude. 
  • They dislike the made-to-feel-guilty stares as they queue and bump into a friend. Sheepishly, "Er..I only queue for CQT once a month!
  • They are dying to try their new wok and burner.
I really don't know.

Maybe I just like to eat in the comfort of the home. Maybe we can make a healthier version at home (I think so). And when it comes to my family, each girl has their own preference. No tauge, no chili, no prawns etc. Make this request to the CQT man and you are in for a scolding. And it is not great as take-aways.

Frying CKT can really get your adrenaline going. The fire, the smoke, the smell , the wok action etc.

In fact, my most memorable CKT experience was when I was last in Taiping. We told our host that we have a craving for it. It must have been a half an hour ride before we reached this zinc-roofed shop located in a dark and deserted area. It had only ONE stall. It was selling CKT of course. It is that or nothing.

It was late into the night but hey, there was a queue.

Got queue, got queue...and we hastened our steps as we headed towards it

The Taiping CQT man - nice photo and edited to with the glow of the fire as focal point
We were told that this was the best in Taiping. He has been at it for more than 25 years.

He was using charcoal fire and sparks were flying. How exciting!

He made a battery operated fan which he could pull from time to time to get it going when he needed the fire really hot. He used lots of white pepper. He opted for the richer duck eggs. (Hmm - you can't buy this in Singapore. Or can you?)
We stood at a safe distance and watched. In between frantic wok action, in what must be akin to a furnace, he smiled and proudly told us that his children are studying in Singapore.

We can guess as much that this stall will discontinue with his retirement.

No degree holder will want to hold his wok chan.

Not with this kind of fire. It would be a daily experience of incrementally slow cremation.

We waited for an hour before the first plate arrived. By then, we had watched Malaysia beat Indonesia in a soccer game from a small boxed TV (you remember them?). The CKT was good of course, peppery and hot from the wok hei. I have a short video clip of him in action.

A memorable experience indeed.

I almost forgot. The recipe.

You want to know how to make it at home.

Now, I can only tell you how I did it mine. It may not be as good as the one near your home or far away in Taiping. No charcoal. No furnace. But it will be quite satisfying.  

This recipe is not for the fainthearted though. You can expect some smoke and it will get in your eyes. But you love this and want to make this.

Here is how.

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Home Premium Office Version)

For a plate of goodness:
Get the ingredients ready beside your wok

Kuay Teow
Yellow Mee
Bean Sprouts
Chinese Chives (cut into an inch length)
Pork (sliced into small pieces)
Prawns (peeled, tail on)
Chinese sausage (sliced)
Dried chilli paste (Chili boh)
Lard oil
Soy Sauce
Fish Sauce
Minced Garlic
Some water

  1. Make the sauce. 3:1 proportion of soy sauce: fish sauce. 
  2. Heat up the wok.
  3. Add lard oil (2 tablespoon). When oil is hot enough, add some garlic, chilli, pork, sausage and prawns. Fry for about a minute.
  4. The add the noodles (just grab a handful each). Add two tablespoon of sauce. Splash in some water with your hands. Half a minute.
  5. Push noodles aside and break an egg in the space created. When the egg is half cooked, move the noodles onto it. From this point on, you turn the noodles rather than stir less vigorously as you do not want to break up the egg too much. 
  6. Add bean sprouts. Lots of it -  grab a handful. Add some chives. Then white pepper. 20 secs more of stir-frying and its done.
  7. Dish and serve.

More tips

  1. Mise en place your ingredients as you do not have time once the fire get going to search for them. Your right hand is frying and your left is adding stuff in, assuming you are a right-hander :). 
  2. You will not be able to achieve the same degree of wok hei at home using your normal stove. But you can improve on this by frying one plate at a time. You need to use a good iron or cast iron wok. I use a cheap and light iron wok which needs to be oiled when kept to prevent rust.
  3. Don't over-fry the noodles.And yeah, don't overfry the bean sprouts.
  4. Adding water from time to time is important as even if you are doing a drier version, you want the CKT to be moist. This will also prevent the noodles from sticking to the hot wok.  
  5. I like to see large pieces of egg in my CKT. The key it to have it cooked enough and yet moist on the inside and some parts integrating with the noodles. This is unlike the egg in the fried rice where it is stir-fried into small pieces and you want a complete egg-rice separation.
  6. Lard is mandatory if you like it to taste like how it is done outside. Making it is a no-brainer. Dice your pork fat and simmer in very low fire in  apot for about an hour till the lard has crisp and shrunk. For a healthier CKT version, you can reduce the amount of oil overall.  I prefer a less oily version anyway. Add a bit more water to moist it.
  7. White pepper and the chilli will add to the smokey taste. 
  8. Variable elements means the timing for mine may work differently for yours. Be guided by your taste and preference - ingredients, timing, order of frying etc. Use your eyes, palate and if I may say, common sense to guide you. Fry one plate. And improve on the next. Apparently some will add a bit of curry powder to spice it up. Why not. 
Do what you like. After all. It is no longer Penang CKT. It is yours. the way you like it. Folks may not queue for it and it may not be CQT. If you are and your family are happy with it, you have succeeded!

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  1. Looks so delicious, would love to try this as well :)

    Rabbit Breeds

  2. I'm from taiping foo and I pick up their cooking technique by watching the uncle that fried the kuey teow. Awesome as I live in Brunei so learning to cook this gives me a taste of home .

  3. Hi, I wonder if you have made this recipe with rice noodles from your Philips pasta maker, and, if so, were you pleased with the result? I saw the recipe for rice noodles that Philips offers and wonder, since it is listed as a cold noodle, if the noodle will collapse if I try them in a char kuay teow. As always, I very much appreciate your offerings, and guided by your advice, they have brought joy to our family. Thanks!

  4. Hi Heb - As far as I know, Philips machine only makes wheat -based noodles, not rich ones. I could be wrong.

  5. Hi, do you have a recipe for chili boh, or a substitute? I can't seem to find it in the asian supermarkets here in US.