Char kway teow, considered one of the national dishes of Singapore, is also a popular street-hawker dish in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Traditionally it is stir-fried in lard and topped with an unusual type of cockle bursting with dark red juices known as a blood cockle, but I’ve used peanut oil to be a bit healthier and normal clams as you can’t get blood cockles here for love or money. Wok hei (the “essence” imparted by a hot wok during stir-frying) is important for this dish—in fact, I recommend cooking each portion separately to ensure optimum flavor and texture.–MiMi Aye
LC Salty Sweet Note
We’re insanely giddy about this noodle concoction. It was on the menu at a contemporary, grunge-meets-the-real-deal Malaysian place around the corner from our editor-in-chief when she lived in Manhattan, and she was a fool for it. Mind you, this is street food. As such, it’s gloppy, salty, and, yes, a touch greasy. And we love it. The restaurant served a variant on this, and we’ve played around with the recipe in our home kitchens—swapping out the clams for more shrimp, omitting the sausage and instead adding chunks of roast pork, even tossing in crabmeat. Just be mindful of the fact that it’s already got sufficient salt and oil to see you through any hangover. The only element common to Southeast Asian cooking that’s missing is sour, and that’s easily remedied by setting some lime wedges out for guests to squeeze over their plates. But it’s really not necessary. Just focus on the primary ingredients and you’ll be good. Quite good, actually. Here’s what the author suggests in terms of sourcing said ingredients…oh, and for your shopping ease, we left the size on imported packaged ingredients in grams so you don’t have to stand there in the crowded grocery aisle mentally tackling conversions and other unnecessary mathematics.
I use peanut oil for all my cooking. It heats well, deep-fries beautifully, and has a clean, neutral taste. If you’re allergic to peanuts, feel free to substitute a neutral-flavored oil that can be used for frying.
Broad, flat rice noodles—aka ribbon noodles—are used across Asia where they are generally known by the Chinese names of ho fun and chow fun. Think of them as the rice version of tagliatelle. Slightly chewy in texture. Found either fresh in strips or sheets that can be cut to the desired width or dried in packages. Kway teow is also a flat, broad noodle, used mainly in Malaysia and Singapore, that’s found fresh in strips or sheets that can be cut to the desired width or dried in large shrink-wrapped bundles in Asian supermarkets. Differs from ho fun in that kway teow is technically made from rice cakes sliced into strips and is therefore slightly stiffer than ho fun, but the two are interchangeable in most recipes.
Chinese Sausage (Lap Cheong)
Dried, fatty, sweet, chewy sausage that is usually sold in bundles. Typically called for in preparations that involve frying.
A readymade bouncy mash of fish and rice flour or wheat flour that can be sliced and fried.
Light Soy Sauce
I’m quite picky about the brand I use (Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce) and suggest you use the same.
Dark Soy Sauce
Mostly used to add color and sweetness in cooking
Char Kway Teow Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 25 M
- Serves 2
- 75 grams dried or 200 grams fresh broad, flat rice noodles (also known as ribbon noodles, ho fun, or kway teow)
- 6 to 8 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Chinese sausage (lap cheong), thinly sliced at an angle
- 8 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 50 grams ready-made fishcake, sliced into strips (you’ll find this in the refrigerator or freezer aisle at Asian grocery stores or substitute more shrimp; this is NOT breaded fish sticks)
- 50 grams mung bean sprouts, topped and tailed
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (the author recommends Pearl River Bridge Extra Virgin or Superior Light)
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (the author recommends Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark)
- 2 teaspoons Indonesian sweet soy sauce (known as kecap manis; the author recommends Healthy Boy) or 2 teaspoons light soy sauce mixed with 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons chile sauce (Sriracha is particularly good)
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 large eggs
- 2 garlic chives or scallions, thinly sliced or cut into 1-inch lengths
- 100 grams shelled fresh cockles (or substitute fresh shelled clams or, if you’re feeling indulgent, lump crabmeat)
- White pepper, to taste
- 1. If using fresh noodles, carefully separate them (they should come apart in strands), then set them aside, lightly covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. If using dried noodles, prepare them according to the package directions or place them in a large heatproof bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let rest until bendable, 6 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water and drain again. (Depending on the type of rice noodle, you may need to repeat to get the noodles sufficiently bendy.)
- 2. You need to cook the char kway teow 1 portion at a time for the best results. Before you do anything else, measure out all the ingredients in two portions and have them at the ready next to the stove because once you start this stir-fry, there’s no time to stop and measure. Heat a wok on high heat until you can feel the waves of heat coming from it with the palm of your hand (this is known as “wok hei”). Add 2 tablespoons oil, half the garlic, and half the Chinese sausage and stir-fry constantly until the garlic is fragrant and the sausage is glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. You want to watch that garlic so you catch it before it scorches and imparts a bitter flavor to the entire dish.
- 3. With the heat still on high, add 4 shrimp and half the fish cake and stir-fry for another couple minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Turn the heat down to medium and push everything to the side of the wok, then add half the noodles and bean sprouts, half of each sauce, and 3 tablespoons water to the cleared space. Mix these new ingredients together, then stir-fry for 2 minutes in the cleared space.
- 4. Now push everything to the side of the wok again. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the cleared space and, when it’s hot, crack in an egg. Break up the egg with your spatula, then pull everything back into the center of the wok and combine well with the egg. If the mixture seems dry or is sticking to the wok, add 1 tablespoon oil.
- 5. Add half the chives or scallions and white pepper to taste and stir-fry to combine well. Lastly, add half the cockles or clams and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Turn the noodle concoction onto a plate and serve immediately with chopsticks. Repeat with the remaining ingredients for the other portion.
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