Recipe: Penang Char Koay Teow

Out of all the noodle dishes on the planet, a plate of Char Koay Teow still remains my favourite of them all. For me, the best of the best are found on the streets of Penang, peddled by old school hawkers who still use charcoal to fire-up their woks.

For those who don’t get to visit Penang as often as they would like (myself included), here’s a recipe that will help you recreate this street food favourite at home to ease those CKT cravings. Apart from the Koay Teow (flat rice noodles), my must-have supporting cast for that perfect plate of CKT include large prawns, plenty of fried pork lard, beansprouts, sliced lap cheong (chinese sausage), a broken egg, a sprinkling of chopped chives and fresh blood cockles (if you can get hold of them)!

A good recipe certainly helps. However the art of imparting ‘wok hei‘ – that beautiful smoky, caramelised ‘wok’s breath’ flavour – comes only through practice. So here are a few tips.

  • The dish cooks in a flash, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepared ahead of time and within easy reach before you fire up your wok.
  • It’s best to fry in smaller batches to keep the temperature high in the wok so I’ve scaled the recipe below accordingly to a 2 person portion. Scale up the ingredients if you have a larger group, but I would recommend sticking to 2 person batches per fry to get a proper ‘char’.
  • Unless you happen to have a charcoal-kiln at home, I’d say a gas-fired stove & round bottom wok is your best bet. However, if you have to settle for an electric stove & flat bottom wok, just have some patience at the start and make sure the oil in the wok is smoking hot before you start cooking to ensure there’s enough heat.

Penang Char Koay Teow ‘CKT’ (serves 2 to 3 pax)

  • 150g Dried Koay Teow (flat rice noodles) – blanched in hot water for 8 minutes then drained (if using fresh noodles, use about 250g weight)
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 50g Pork Lard cut into small ½ cm cubes (for non-pork eaters, beef fat works well too!)
  • 6 raw king prawns (shelled / deveined)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g Lap Cheong Chinese Sausage, sliced finely at a diagonal
  • 100g beansprouts
  • 6 stalks chives, cut into short 3cm strips
  • 2 eggs (duck eggs preferably for extra creaminess)

Sauce (premix ahead of cooking):

  • 2 tsp Chilli paste (make your own by soaking deseeded dried chillies in hot water, draining, then processing to a fine paste)
  • 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Dark Soy
  • 1 tsp Sweet Soy
  • 1.5 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp hot water

Method:

  1. Make sure all the ingredients are prepared and within reach!
  2. Heat up the oil in the wok until it just starts to smoke.
  3. Add the Lard to the wok and fry off for about 30 seconds until it starts to crips up and release it’s own fat.
  4. Add the chopped Garlic, Prawns & Chinese Sausage and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the Noodles and 3 to 4 tbsp of the prepared Sauce (to your personal tastes). Stir-fry for 1 minute.
  6. Add the Beansprouts and fry for an additional 30 seconds.
  7. Add the Egg (breaking the yolk and mixing through). Follow immediately with the chopped Chives then stir-fry everything together for another 1 minute. Serve immediately if possible. If cooking multiple batches for a large group, repeat steps 1 through 6, scaling up the recipe accordingly.

Have a go!

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