Char Koay Teow – Famous Malaysian Cuisine

The fame of char koay teow has spread well beyond Malaysia, with cooks around the world recreating this iconic street food. But nothing beats eating it in its birthplace, Penang.

Penang char koay teow is yet another twist on a Chinese theme, introduced by immigrants from Southern China to Penang and adapted to Malaysian cuisine. The Hokkien name translates as “fried flat noodles” because it uses wide, flat rice noodles – preferably fresh, not dried and reconstituted. These chewy, bouncy ribbons are wok-fried with garlic, chilli paste, shrimp paste and a soy-based sauce, while ingredients like prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage (lup cheong), bean sprouts and chives add flavour and crunch.

A generous helping of pork lard for frying adds a layer of umami, which gives this dish its signature taste and satisfying reputation – it was originally a poor man’s meal, made from leftovers to fill the hungry bellies of fishers and farm labourers. Some versions also add nuggets of crisp pork fat. (Chinese-Muslim cooks do not use pork products in their char koay teow.)

The key to a genuinely great CKT, as it’s affectionately known, is not only the freshest ingredients, but the enticing wok hei, or breath of the wok: the irresistible charred flavour that comes from stir-frying quickly and expertly over high heat.

The best Penang char koay teow can be found at hawker stalls and street food vendors. When ordering, ask for extra egg (telur) for a protein boost. In Penang, some vendors still serve the dish on banana or palm leaves. No matter how its plated, dig in immediately with a dollop of sambal belacan (chilli paste) on the side for extra spice!

Shop name:
Siam Road Char Koay Teow
82, Jalan Siam, George Town, 10400 George Town

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

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