Penang, Malaysia has been recognized over and over again for being among the top cities in the world for street food. Basically, it’s heaven for a food blogger like me. I’m so lucky to call this place my home. These articles will give you a glimpse of the foodie life here:
Ask any Penangite what dishes you MUST try when you visit and Char Kway Teow (or Char Koay Teow) will always be on their list. You’ll find many versions of Char Kway Teow in various regions in Southeast Asia but many people from all over Asia travel to Penang just to indulge in a plate of “the real deal”.
Besides fresh ingredients, two critical elements for a good plate of Char Kway Teow are:
1) very high heat, and
2) a well-seasoned wok, which gives the dish what we call “wok hei” (the “breath” of the wok) – unique flavors imparted on to the food through this process.
I hope that you’ll give this dish a try to get a taste of Penang.
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a good quality wok. Preferably cast iron or carbon steel. Non-stick will not work well as it cannot withstand super high temperatures. Here are a couple of good options:
Don’t forget the wok spatula!
Seasoning the wok:
Before you use your wok for the very first time, it needs to be seasoned. I’ve prepared a detailed step-by-step guide on How to Season Your Wok.
Ok, we’re ready to cook now. Let’s take a look at the ingredients.
From left to right:
- Banana leaf (optional). Placing a small sheet of banana leaf on the serving plate will add a very nice subtle aroma to the dish. In the US, you can find banana leaf in most Asian markets; usually in the freezer. Just wipe it with a clean damp cloth.
- Flat rice noodles. If you don’t have access to fresh noodles, you can use dried flat rice noodles (boil them in water for a few minutes until al-dente…cooked but firm to the bite, drain well, then drizzle cooking oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking)
- Fresh bean sprouts. When I was living in Oregon, I had much better luck finding really fresh bean sprouts at the Asian supermarkets as opposed to the general grocery store. Rinse well and drain.
- Duck egg. You can also use chicken egg but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend using duck egg as it has a richer flavor and goes so well in this dish.
- Chopped garlic.
- Chinese chives (garlic chives), chopped to about 1 inch pieces.
- Chinese sausage (lap cheong). Available at most Asian supermarkets. Sliced thinly.
- Fresh red chili, thinly sliced/julienne (for garnish)
- Chili paste. This is called chili boh here in Malaysia. It’s a combination of dried and fresh red chili, a bit of garlic and shallot. If you’d like to make it yourself, click here to watch a video by Nyonya Cooking. Otherwise, use a chili paste that you have access to in your area.
- Large shrimp. Peeled and deveined, tail on.
- Sauce: 2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce + 1/2 teaspoon of Dark Soy Sauce + 1/2 teaspoon of Oyster Sauce
Cockles: Blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then take them out of the shell. Toss them in to the wok when you add your bean sprouts and garlic chives.
Lard: Most street vendors use lard but you can also use cooking oil. If you would like to make your own lard, simply cut up pork fat into approximately half-inch cubes, put them in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Let it simmer until the pork fat bits are brown and crispy.
Char Kway Teow step by step
Before you even turn on the heat, make sure that you have all of your ingredients within reach. The cooking process will be super quick so you need to be ready.
Heat up your wok over maximum heat. As soon as you start to see a little bit of smoke from the wok, pour 3 tablespoons of cooking oil or lard into your wok, immediately followed by minced garlic (3 – 4 cloves). Give it a quick stir.
As soon as the garlic starts to brown just slightly, toss in 4 – 5 large shrimp, a handful of sliced Chinese sausage and 1 tablespoon of chili boh/chili paste.
Stir with your spatula until the shrimp is cooked. This should only take about a minute. Any longer than that and you’ll overcook the shrimp. Remove the shrimp and Chinese sausage from the wok and set aside.
Add 1 and a 1/2 cups of kway teow noodles in to the wok, followed by the sauce (2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce + 1/2 a teaspoon of Dark Soy Sauce + 1/2 a teaspoon of Oyster Sauce). Stir well, ensuring that all of the noodles are covered in the sauce.
Push the noodles to the side of the wok, then crack the egg in the center of the wok. Let the egg cook for just about 10 – 20 seconds, then stir it in to the noodles.
Add 1 cup of bean sprouts, a small handful of garlic chives, the cooked shrimp and Chinese sausage.
Stir well to combine. It’s now ready to be served! Transfer to a serving plate lined with banana leaf, then garnish with thinly sliced red chili if you wish.
Penang Char Kway Teow
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil or lard
- 3 - 4 garlic cloves minced
- 4 - 5 large shrimp peeled and deveined, tail on
- 7 - 10 thin slices of Chinese sausage
- 1 tablespoon chili boh or chili paste
- 1 1/2 cups fresh flat rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1 egg preferably duck egg
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts washed and drained
- small handful of garlic chives cut into 1 inch pieces
- banana leaf optional
- red chili thinly sliced (optional)
- Make sure you have all ingredients within arms reach.
- Heat up your wok over maximum heat. As soon as it starts to smoke a little, pour the cooking oil or lard into the wok, immediately followed by the minced garlic. Give it a quick stir.
- When the garlic starts to turn brown at the edges, add shrimp, Chinese sausage, and chili boh or chili paste. Stir-fry until the shrimp are cooked (should only take about a minute), then remove the shrimp and Chinese sausage from the wok. Set aside.
- Add flat rice noodles into the wok. Drizzle the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and oyster sauce over the noodles. Stir well. Make sure all of the noodles are covered in the sauce.
- Push the noodles to the side of the wok, then crack the egg in the center of the wok. Allow the egg to cook for about 10 - 20 seconds, then stir it in to the noodles.
- Add bean sprouts and garlic chives, followed by the cooked shrimp and Chinese sausage.
- Stir to combine just for a few seconds, then dish it out on to a serving plate lined with a banana leaf. Garnish with sliced fresh red chili.
- Serve immediately.
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