Char Koay Kak – Famous Malaysian Cuisine

What’s a traditional Malaysian breakfast dish? In Penang, the answer is simple: Char Koay Kak!

It’s a sister dish to the iconic char koay teow, with noodles replaced by squares of steamed rice cake. Char koay kak is not the huge wok fry-up fare of CKT, but a simpler small-portioned dish more suited to a morning meal or late supper.

The cake is a paste of rice flour, tapioca and sometimes cornflour, often with grated daikon radish added, steamed to form a solid slab. The best hawker stalls make their own fresh daily, but convenience has seen the rise of pre-packaged rice cakes.

Hawker-stall chefs fry cubes of the rice cakes in large flat pans, as much as 75cm in diameter. The cooking fat of choice is pork lard, though vegetable oil is now common. The usual combination sees the cakes tossed with garlic, chilies, pickled vegetables, bean sprouts, chives and eggs, all in a soy-based sauce.

The large pan allows frying in separate areas, to accommodate special requests like “no eggs,” or “mild spicy” – note that “super spicy” is the default, as that’s how locals prefer it. Some stalls offer such seafood as squid, prawns and oyster for an extra charge, though purists object to these twists on tradition!

It’s customary to see homemakers on early morning grocery runs, waiting at char koay kak hawker stalls for a takeaway family breakfast. In the evenings, the stalls move across town to catch the supper crowds – supper time in Penang is around 9.00pm. When ordering, be sure to specify the portion you want – small or large.

This beloved dish can be found all over Penang, from street vendors to hawker centres and restaurants. One of the most popular places for a char koay kak fix is Sister Yao’s stall in the New Lane Hawker Centre. Her version has been praised by food critics and bloggers alike!

Shop name: Sister Yao’s Char Koay Kak
96, Lorong Macalister, George Town, 11400

Famous Malaysian cuisine is a 50-video series produced by Masters of Malaysian cuisine(MOMC) in partnership with Tourism Malaysia.

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