Char kuey teow, oh my god, char kuey teow. It’s always one of the first things I eat when I go home to Malaysia. Char kuey teow is in that magic category of ‘anytime foods’ and to make it even better, the hawker food court near mum’s house is home to Robert’s, arguably the best in all of the PJ area. N is famously known to not share his Robert’s char kuey teow, and sometimes, to even eat two large servings in the one sitting.
With all the trimmings, this dish has prawns, cockles (blood clams), fish cake, lap cheong (sweetened chinese sausage), egg, bean sprouts, garlic chives and my favourite – crispy bits of rendered, deep fried pork fat – but you need to be in the know, and in Robert’s selected few to get the pork fat. Good char kuey teow is all about technique, but with a bit of practice and some ingredients from your local Asian grocer you can make a very authentic version at home. It’s an easy weeknight meal or a quick lunch if you have all the ingredients to hand.
Bee has a helpful tutorial on her blog here, where she makes everything including the chilli paste from scratch. I’ve just opted to use sambal oelek in a jar for convenience – using fresh chillies means that the heat level can vary. I learnt that the hard way when a perfectly decent plate of kuey teow was declared inedible due to heat levels. Substitute or omit ingredients as you see fit – thinly sliced chicken works as a substitute for chinese sausage. I’ve omitted the cockles in my recipe below because I’m allergic to them, and also not included traditional pork fat because it takes aaages to render – but if you’re game you can do it using this guide. If you’re adding the crispy pork fat, add it just at the very end.
Char Kuey Teow
4 tbsp vegetable oil, or if you’re feeling brave, pork fat
4 cloves garlic, very finely diced
1 lap cheong (chinese sausage) thinly sliced on the diagonal
half a long fish cake, thinly sliced
9 fresh prawns, shelled with the tail on
1 packet bean sprouts
4 tsp sambal oelek
small handful of Chinese flat chives, cut into 2″ lengths
1 packet flat rice noodles, ‘stir fry’ type
for the sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tbsp hot water
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons Cheong Chan cooking caramel, or dark soy sauce
½ teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- Start by making the sauce – mix all ingredients in a small bowl, making sure to use hot water so that the sugar dissolves.
- Cut up all your ingredients and have them within easy reach – divide each into four equal portions. You’ll be making individual serves, so you’ll need to do it all four times. You want all the ingredients to have about 10 seconds in the pan before you add the next – ready?
- Heat your wok until it’s smoking, then add 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
- Add the diced garlic and stir through for about 5 seconds, then add the chinese sausage, fish cake and prawns. Stir.
- Add the sambal oelek and mix through quickly.
- Add the bean sprouts and stir again.
- Add the noodles into the wok and stir again.
- Push the ingredients to one side, and crack one egg into the wok – stir the egg vigorously to break into small chunks, then use the other ingredients to cover the egg – wait for ten seconds for the egg to cook through and stir everything together.
- Add 1-1½ tbsp of the mixed sauce into the wok and toss through. Add chives, stir to combine and quickly dish out onto a plate. Serve while hot.
Top tips for standout char kuey teow -
- Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready to go before you turn your wok on
- If you’re doing this for the first time, turn your wok down to just below a high heat so that you the ingredients don’t accidentally catch and burn.
- Cook each portion separately or they ingredients won’t have the wok hei taste.
- When choosing your noodles, look for the flat rice noodles labelled ‘stir fry’ as they’re designed to be cooked in a wok rather than in a soup
- You can get all the ingredients required at a decent Asian grocer – trust me I live in Canberra. What you can’t get, substitute as you see fit (this does not mean chorizo for lap cheong).
- Lap cheong is a sweetened chinese sausage with a decent amount of fat in it – most people I’ve fed it to have liked it despite never having tasted anything like it before, but it’s a matter of personal taste I guess.
- Real char kuey teow should be lightly coloured as shown in the above picture – not dark brown like a lot of Asian restaurants do it.
- Serve it hot – straight from the wok.