Char Kway Teow

‘Char Kway Teow’ or ‘stir-fried ricecake strips’ is arguably one of the most popular dishes among Malaysians of all races. The name is derived from the Hokkien term for ‘fried’ which is ‘char, while ‘kway teow’ refers to the ‘flat rice noodles’, which is the main ingredient. The latter is stir-fried over very high heat with light or dark soy sauce, chili, while prawns, deshelled cockles, bean sprouts, chinese chives and eggs. Among the chinese community, the char kway teow is traditionally stir-fried in pork fat with crisp croutons of pork lard and serve on a piece of banana leaf or plate. In some instances, slices of chinese sausage and fishcake are added to accentuate the taste.

Originally conceived as a poor man’s food, mostly consumed by laborers, farmers, fishermen and cockle-pickers, the dish has today evolved into one of the most-loved dishes among Malaysians – but with certain ingredients omitted to adhere to ‘halal’ guidelines of muslim community. As the dish became more widespread, many cooks have come up with their own versions of ‘char kway teow’ but with the same essential ingredients ‘Char kway teow’ was said to have its origins in S.E.Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei) but the common consensus is that ‘Penang char kway teow’ tops the list when it comes to taste and originality. In Kampar, Perak, the dish is cooked with cockles but no prawns, unless on request. In East Malaysia, other ingredients are used in the cooking eg beef, onions, sweet soya sauce etc. There are also so-called ‘gourmet versions’ of char kway teow, especially in Ipoh, Penang, Taiping and even the Klang Valley, where seafood, crab meat and even duck eggs are added to suit discerning tastes.