Char Koay Teow is one of the Top 5 Chinese noodle dishes in Penang and other cities in Malaysia. Of the five – Hokkien Hae Mee, Asam Laksa, Char Koay Teow, Curry Laksa, and Koay Teow Th’ng, it is hard to say which holds the number one spot. Everyone has their personal favorite. To be honest, I have a hard time deciding as they are all good and quite different in tastes. If you ever get a chance to visit, do try them all and let me know.
Of the 5, only Char Koay Teow is fried while the rest are all soupy. Hence, it has the shortest cooking time, though it is not necessarily the easiest. A lot of it has to do with the quality of the noodles to begin with. I may be biased but some of the best fresh koay teow (rice strips or flat-cut rice noodles) and mee (yellow egg noodles) are found in Malaysia. It is the very quality of these noodles that make noodle dishes so popular there.
Over here in Minnesota, I am just thankful I can even find koay teow (rice strips). These are made in Southern California and refrigerated. Fresh koay teow should be soft and the individual strips separated. I am sure these prepackaged koay teow have the same consistency but unfortunately after refrigeration, they tend to harden and clump together into a “cake”. One way to overcome this is to place the entire “cake” on a dish in a microwave and nuke it on high for 5 minutes. Then gently loosen the strips when they are cool enough to handle. This will prevent them from breaking into small bits when stirred in the pan.
Back in the old days, cockles were an essential ingredient in Char Koay Teow and Curry Laksa. The Hepatitis A epidemic of the early 80’s traced to partially cooked cockles saw the demise of this ingredient. Today, it is optional and many vendors do not even offer it to their customers. Shrimps and lap cheong (Chinese sausage) became the norm in place of cockles.
Two other important ingredients in a good Char Koay Teow are bean sprouts and Chinese chives. These vegetables provide texture and color contrast to the dish. Chinese chives also lend it a slightly garlicky flavor.
Char Koay Teow is most delicious when cooked in individual or small portions. Crowding the pan will not allow the noodles to be properly stirred and mixed with the sauces. Please cook this in two batches if you do not have a large enough pan. Both chili paste and eggs are optional but highly recommended.
- 2 lbs (900g) fresh koay teow (fresh flat-cut rice noodles)
- 3 oz (80g) Chinese sausage
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 oz (115g) shrimps, peeled and deveined
- 2 tbsp chili sambal/chili paste/gochujang (optional)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs (optional)
- 6 oz (170g) bean sprouts, trimmed
- 4 oz (115g) Chinese chives cut into 2 inch lengths
Remove koay teow from packaging and place on a microwave safe dish. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and loosened up koay teow. Set aside.
Soak Chinese sausage in hot water for 10 minutes. Remove casing, then slice thinly at a diagonal.
Combine dark soy sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce in a small bowl.
In a large non-stick pan, heat vegetable oil. Fry Chinese sausage for about 2 minutes until lightly brown. Add minced garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add shrimps and continue to fry for 2 to 3 minutes until shrimps curl and turn pink. Stir in sambal/chili paste/gochujang.
Add koay teow, soy sauce mixture, and pepper. Stir to get everything well mixed and coated with sauce. This should take about 2 minutes.
Push noodles aside. Break in the eggs. Flip the noodles back onto the eggs.
Finally, add bean sprouts and Chinese chives. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove and serve immediately.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!