May 24 2012

Singapore hawker dishes: Char kway teow

Published by at 10:06 pm under Singapore hawker dishes


If you think fried noodles don’t get any better than phad Thai, it means you haven’t tried char kway teow. This popular Singapore hawker dish combines rice noodles, seafood, Chinese sausage and lard into one sinfully savoury dish. We hope you’re not counting calories.

Char kway teow: You can start the diet tomorrow.

Char kway teow: You can start the diet tomorrow.

Translated from Chinese, char kway teow means “stir-fried rice cake strips”. Though it’s best known as a hawker dish popular in Singapore as well as Penang, it originated in South China and the recipe travelled to Southeast Asia along with immigrants. Char kway teow was originally made using leftovers, which explains its seemingly random mix of ingredients.

The foundation of char kway teow is the rice noodles, which should be wide and flat. These are tossed in the wok with two kinds of soy sauce, garlic, a little bit of chilli, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage, egg and lard. In case you think it’s not a complete meal without some veggies, you’ll also find some beansprouts and chives in the mix.

Char kway teow is considered one of the hardest hawker dishes to make, and the perfect dish should have ‘wok hei’ – a smoky flavour imparted from the high heat of the wok. One of Singapore’s most popular food bloggers has even published a book about the disappearing art of traditional char kway teow.

For obvious reasons, char kway teow has a reputation as being the most unhealthy hawker dish. In response, some Singapore hawkers have modified the recipe to use less oil and leave out the lard and sausage. Some stalls have even developed a healthy char kway teow with more greens than meat. While we agree it’s important to eat your veggies, if you’re only going to try char kway teow once you should stick to the original.

No hawker centre is complete without a stall wok-frying char kway teow, but if you want to try the best of the best these spots are highly recommended:

Thye Hong Fried Prawn Mee & Char Kway Teow: Stall #58, Newton Food Centre
Fried Kway Teow: Stall #1, Amoy Street Food Centre
Heng Huat Fried Char Kway Teow (healthy char kway teow): Stall #36, Pasir Panjang Food Centre
Lim Brothers’ Char Kway Teow: Malaysian Food Street, Resorts World Sentosa

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