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Char kway teow 炒粿條, literally translated as stir fried flat rice noodles, is a classic street food in Singapore and Malaysia. This popular hawker fare is well-loved by locals for its rustic and authentic char taste that comes from cooking the noodles in a heavy duty carbon steel wok over very high heat. Blood cockles and pork lard oil are essential ingredients to make it. Many would agree that even though these are not exactly healthy ingredients, it will not be called char kway teow without these ingredients. You can of course not include the blood cockles and replace pork lard oil with vegetable oil to make a healthier version of the noodle dish.
So this is my rendition of this hawker noodle dish. Preparing the ingredients can be a little tedious with the cleaning and extracting of the blood cockles, but it’s all worth the effort. It helps to get all the ingredients ready before you start to cook, as the cooking process is very fast. However since I’m doing it at home, my fire stove is not as heavy duty as those found in hawker stalls and restaurants, thus quite lacking in the ‘wok hey’, translated as the ‘breath of the wok’, that is so important in creating that smokey char taste. It’s still as delicious and I can add as much ingredients as I loved such as the blood cockles.
The hokkien word ‘kway teow’ or 粿條 in the dish name refers to flat rice noodles. They are gluten-free since they are made of rice flour, and generally coated with a layer of oil to prevent them from sticking to each other. Fresh kway teow are soft and should be cooked the day it’s bought or made. They are also known as ‘fun’ or 粉 which means noodles in Cantonese. In Asia, these noodles can be bought at any grocery stores, supermarkets, ‘wet’ markets. They also come in dried dehydrated versions and you can easily hydrate them by boiling them before stir frying the noodles. The noodles also come in various breadth sizes.
Tips for cooking char kway teow
- Prepare all the ingredients before cook, as the cooking process is very quick. You will want every ingredient near within your reach so you will not overcook whatever is in the wok or pan.
- Use fresh kway teow noodles if possible. The texture and the taste is the best on the day you make or buy it. You can of course buy dried flat rice noodles if you are unable to get the fresh ones where you are located. You will need to hydrate the noodles before cooking them in the wok.
- Handle fresh kway teow noodles gently when cooking it as it breaks easily.
- Use a wok or heavy based pan. Use one that retains heat well and cooks food evenly.
- Render the pork fat over low heat until the oil separates and fat becomes crispy, then remove the oil and fats and use about 3 tbsp of the oil for sauteing the garlic. For a healthier version, you can replace the pork fat oil with vegetable oil. Many recipes advocate using fresh pork fat, I have used both, and I have even used the guanciale, a type of Italian cured pork jowl and really love the flavour of it.
Watch how to make Char Kway Teow on YouTube
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Char Kway Teow 炒粿條
- 400 g fresh kway teow (flat rice noodles) dried kway teow is also ok
- 1 Chinese sausage
- 3 cloves garlic
- 30 g pork fat fresh or cured, cut into cubes, or 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 150 g fresh prawns
- 100 g fish cake
- 1 large egg
- 400 g fresh blood cockles
- 100 g bean sprouts washed, optional to remove both ends
- 100 g garlic chives
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp light soy sauce season to taste
- 2 tsp fish sauce season to taste
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- Chilli paste optional
- Red chilli
- Wash and cut 100g of garlic chives into 5cm. Peel and mince 3 cloves of garlic.Wash 100g of bean sprouts.3 cloves garlic, 100 g garlic chives
- Wash and slice 1 red chilli. Half the limes. These will be used for garnishing when serving.Red chilli, Limes
- Slice 100g fish cake thinly.100 g fish cake
- Slice 1 Chinese sausage thinly.1 Chinese sausage
- Rinse 400g fresh blood cockles in water in a bowl 2-3 times and drain off the water. Add 2 tbsp salt and water and soak the cockles for 15 minutes to remove the sediments. Soak the cockles in hot boiling water for 10 seconds. Then drain off the water. Open the shell and remove the cockles. Most of the shells should be easy to open after soaking in hot boiling water.400 g fresh blood cockles, 2 tbsp salt
- Wash 150g prawns. Remove the head and shell, and keep for other uses. Optional to leave the tail intact. Then remove the veins.150 g fresh prawns
- Separate out / loosen up 400g fresh kway teow. Note: fresh kway teow sticks to each other. If using dried kway teow, soften according to packaging instructions.400 g fresh kway teow (flat rice noodles)
- Warm a wok or heavy based pan over low heat. Render the pork fat until the oil separates and the fats become crispy. Remove the fats and oil, and leave about 3 tbsp of pork fat oil in the work / pan.Note: you can replace the pork fat oil with 3 tbsp of vegetable oil.30 g pork fat
- Turn the heat up to high.Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.3 cloves garlic
- Add sliced Chinese sausage and fish cake, and stir fry for about 15 seconds.1 Chinese sausage, 100 g fish cake
- Add 400g kway teow, all the seasonings and chilli paste (optional). Gently stir to mix well. The fresh kway teow breaks easily so take note to handle gently.1 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tsp light soy sauce, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1/8 tsp white pepper, Chilli paste
- Add the prawns and stir fry until the prawns turn pink.150 g fresh prawns
- Push all the ingredients aside. If the wok / pan is lacking of oil, add 1 tsp of the pork fat oil and crack in 1 egg. Quickly scramble the eggs, then cover the egg with the rest of the ingredients and stir fry for about 10-15 seconds.1 large egg
- Add the cockles, 100g bean sprouts and 100g garlic chives and cook for another 30 seconds. It's done once the cockles are no longer bloody. Turn off heat. Note: do a taste test. Optional to season with salt.100 g bean sprouts, 100 g garlic chives
- Serve immediately with cut red chilli and squeeze some fresh lime juice over.Red chilli, Limes