Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake)
Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake) also known as Chai Tau Kueh is a very popular street food on the island of Penang, Malaysia. It is normally eaten for breakfast or late supper. Housewives doing their groceries in the early morning would gather around the stall to trade gossips while waiting for their orders of Char Koay Kak. The hawker will fry batches of cubed rice cakes in a flat pan about 2½ feet in diameter. The large pan enables him to cater for “special dietary needs” by frying at different corners of the pan. Egg-free, no problems. Sometimes you can even request for extras like shrimp. The biggest batch is always the super spicy.
Ideally the rice cakes should have radishes in them but it has been simplified over time to fit the breakfast budget. This delectable dish is a treat on shoestring. While its flavors and preparation are similar to its more famous cousin, the Penang Char Koay Teow, nevertheless Char Koay Kak holds a very special place in the hearts of many Penangites. Some may remember mom coming home from the market with the much anticipated triangular newspaper bundle tied with a rafia string.
This dish is hardly found outside of Malaysia and Singapore. The only way to enjoy it here is to make it at home. This can be a rather involved process as the rice cake has to be made first. When I saw these ready made rice cakes at the Asian grocery store, I was delighted. The taro in there is minimal and the taste hardly noticeable.
I used the Korean chili paste (gochujang) as it is the closest substitute to the kind of chili paste used in Malaysia. I also added some Chinese chives for added flavor and color. Below is my rendition of the dish.
Note: In my haste to taste the dish, I forgot to take more step-by-step pictures but you get the idea.
- 1 packet taro or plain rice cake, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 large eggs
- 8 oz (225g) bean sprouts
- 4 oz (115g) Chinese chives, sliced into 1-inch lengths
- 2 tbsp chopped pickled radish (chai poh), optional
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp chili paste
- 4 tbsp canola oil
- Salt and pepper
Pour 1 tablespoon canola oil in non-stick fry pan. Add half of the cubed rice cake and pan fry till golden brown. Remove and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the cubed rice cake.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil into pan. Sauté garlic and pickled radish until lightly brown. Stir in chili paste. Add pan fried rice cubes, dark soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
Push rice cubes to the side of pan with spatula. Add eggs and toss rice cubes over eggs. Stir to get rice cubes coated with egg. Add bean sprouts and Chinese chives. Stir for another two minutes or so.
Remove and serve immediately.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!