This article was originally published for Curious Cuisiniere. Updated February 2021.
I find it interesting how your parents can have such an influence on what you like to eat.
Although I’ve never been to Southeast Asia, I’ve been lucky to vicariously get a taste of what it must be to eat there through my Mom’s cooking.
In this case, my Dad’s favourite noodle dish from “back home” is Char kway teow.
WHAT IS CHAR KWAY TEOW?
Char kway teow is a stir-fried Southeast Asian noodle dish of Chinese origin.
“Kway teow” literally translates to “rice cake strips” from the Chinese Hokkien dialect.
The dish contains flat rice noodles with a variety of seafood ingredients, egg, chives and bean sprouts coated in a dark soy sauce.
In parts of Malaysia, actual strips of rice cake are cut to make this dish.
However, you can use wide, flat rice noodles (also known as “hor fun” in Cantonese).
IS CHAR KWAY TEOW HEALTHY?
Traditionally, Char kway teow is stir-fried with a copious amount of pork lard but in the interest of healthier cooking, my recipe will be much leaner.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Char kway teow has a savoury, smoky taste with pops of slight sweetness from the Chinese sausage.
INGREDIENTS IN CHAR KWAY TEOW
- wide/flat rice noodles: if you can find fresh rice noodles, that would be optimal, but you can make this dish with dried rice noodles. Be sure to soak the dried rice noodles for about 30 minutes prior to cooking. Rice noodles are readily available and much easier to use in making Char kway teow. You can find flat rice noodles at your local grocery store or Asian supermarket.
- light soy sauce: gives the noodles their overall flavour and some saltiness.
- dark soy sauce: adds a dark colour to the noodles and is typically less salty than light soy sauce.
- belacan: is a fermented shrimp paste with salt and shrimp that has a strong, pungent flavour and smell, somewhat akin to anchovy paste. Belacan adds a complex flavour to the dish however, it can be difficult to find outside of Southeast Asia, so feel free to omit.
- prawns: you can use prawns or shrimp, or whatever seafood you like — blood cockles are also traditionally found in this dish, however it can be difficult to find blood cockles here, so I’ve omitted them.
- fish tofu/fish cake: is actually a fish paste (mixed with starch) that is shaped into a block and steamed; it has a spongy texture which mops up the sauce and locks in flavour.
- chili: adds a little heat overall to the dish; feel free to omit if you don’t like spicy.
- Chinese sausage: also known as “lap cheong” in Cantonese; which is dried, cured pork sausage flavoured with rose wine, sugar, rice wine, and soy sauce. It has a sweet and salty flavour and you can find it easily in Asian supermarkets.
- bean sprouts: are also known as mung bean sprouts and add a little refreshing crunch and lightness to the dish.
- chives: give the dish a pop of colour and also add a little onion-y flavour.
IS IT THE SAME AS HONG KONG STYLE?
No. Hong Kong-style char kway teow is different than Southeast Asian/Malaysian-style char kway teow and includes:
- rice noodles
- BBQ pork (char siu)
- bean sprouts
- curry powder
The major difference is that HK-style char kway teow utilizes char siu roasted BBQ pork in place of the seafood/fish tofu, and is more yellow in colour due to the addition of curry powder.
TIPS ON MAKING CHAR KWAY TEOW
Here are some of my tips to make Char kway teow a little less intimidating:
- soak your noodles beforehand (at least 30 minutes) if using dried rice noodles
- cut all the ingredients and set them aside first
- heat up your wok to its highest setting
- work fast, and in small batches
The process goes by very quickly since we’re dealing with high temperatures which if not careful, can burn your noodles. However, a little charring is perfect.
HOW TO MAKE CHAR KWAY TEOW AT HOME
Char kway teow exhibits a smoky “wok hei” aroma that is difficult to achieve at home.
However, you can use a wok heated at a high temperature and work quickly to get you similar results.
If you don’t have a wok, a large pan will suffice. Just make it in smaller batches.
First, soak the dried rice noodles in a large pot with warm water (if using dried rice noodles) for about 20-30 minutes.
While the noodles soak, prepare the ingredients.
Cut the fish tofu/fish cake, and Chinese sausage into strips.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs together.
Wash and drain the bean sprouts and chives. Cut the chives into long 2″ pieces.
Make the sauce by combining 1 Tbsp light soy, 3 Tbsp dark soy, 1 ½ Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp oyster sauce in a bowl.
Have all the ingredients ready. (Remember to work in batches and work quickly).
Drain the rice noodles.
Heat up a large wok over high heat.
Add about 1 Tbsp of oil to the wok and add in belacan (if using), and stir fry for 30 seconds.
Next, add in the Chinese sausage. Sauté until the Chinese sausage releases some oil, and then add fish tofu/cake, and prawns/shrimp.
Add a handful of rice noodles to the wok, and toss everything together.
Push the noodles aside and add 1 Tbsp of oil to the centre of the wok.
Pour in half the beaten egg and let it set for about 30 seconds before scrambling it, incorporating the noodles with the egg.
Pour in half of the soy sauce mixture over top of the noodles and stir to combine.
Add in 2 handfuls of bean sprouts and chives. Toss everything together and remove from heat.
Repeat with the remainder of the ingredients.
HOW TO SERVE & REHEAT CHAR KWAY TEOW
Char kway teow makes for a great lunch or dinner.
Serve the noodles hot. (Rice noodles are fragile and don’t taste good while cold).
You can serve char kway teow with some chili sauce on the side. (Chili garlic is my personal favourite).
To reheat, you can microwave the noodles until steaming hot.
OTHER SOUTHEAST ASIAN RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE
If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like these:
Let me know if you try out this recipe — be sure to tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below if you try out the recipe!
Char Kway Teow
- 3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 ½ Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 pkg (1 lb) wide flat rice noodles dried or fresh
- 4 Tbsp peanut oil divided (or any high smoke-point oil)
- 1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste) optional
- 3 pieces Chinese sausage (lap cheong) sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 8 pieces fish tofu sliced
- 10 large prawns or shrimp
- 3 eggs beaten
- 1 pkg bean sprouts washed
- 1 bunch green chives cut into pieces about 2" long
Prepare the rice noodles:
- If not using fresh rice noodles, soak the dried rice noodles in a pot of warm water for about 20-30 minutes. Then drain. Set aside.
Make the sauce:
- Combine the dark soy, light soy, sugar and oyster sauce in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside.
Cook the char kway teow:
- In a very hot wok (over high heat), add in 1 Tbsp high smoke point oil, such as peanut oil.
- Remember to work in portions. Add in half the belachan (if using) and stir fry for 30 seconds.
- Add in the Chinese sausage (lap cheong) and stir for another minute before adding in the fish tofu and prawns/shrimp.
- Add a large handful of rice noodles and toss everything together.
- Push the noodles aside and add another 1 Tbsp of oil to the centre of the wok.
- Pour in half of the beaten egg and let it set for about 30 seconds before scrambling it, incorporating the noodles with the egg.
- Pour in half of the sauce mixture (dark soy, light soy, sugar, oyster sauce) and stir quickly. Finally, add in 2 large handfuls of bean sprouts and chives and toss to incorporate.
- Remove from heat and repeat with the remainder of the ingredients.
- Serve hot, with chili sauce if you wish.