This Char Kuey Teow recipe showcases the fabulous Nyonya cooking of Malaysia, drawing on many cultural influences of the region. Quick, tasty and delicious!
Fabulous because a Nyonya noodle dish draws on many of the culinary influences on the Malay Peninsula. Think Chinese, Malay, Indian, as well as traces of Portuguese, Dutch, British and Indonesian influences. It’s a simple dish to make.
One of the great pleasures of traveling to South East Asia is tasting and enjoying the great street food on offer. It’s also friendly on the wallet! There is no end to the great noodle dishes available, ready in just a few minutes of cooking in a wok over a high temperature. Noodles are a staple on the Malay diet. It’s an easy dish to master and made from everyday ingredients.
To me, this Penang Char Kuey Teow recipe is the quintessential comfort food of Malaysia. It can also be known as Char Keow Teow or Kway Teow. A dish hailing from Penang (a.k.a. Goergetown), you will find Char Kuey Teow everywhere throughout Malaysia, from roadside stalls to night markets, in food courts in shopping complexes, as well as five-star hotels. The recipe follows below, but first a little more about street food in this part of the world.
Enjoying the street food on offer in South East Asia is one of the major drawcards for inbound tourism to the region. And, why not? It’s cheap, convenient and the mesmerizing cooking aromas almost lull you into trying many of the menu options available on the street. But the nature of street food in South East Asia is changing, and maybe not for the better. Read on, to find out more.
Eating on the Street is Dying Out in South East Asia
I have been traveling to South east Asia for more than 40 years. For me, eating the street food is one of the major highlights of any South East Asian country. The “mobile kitchen” in use enables food to be prepared, stored, cooked, as well as dish washing facilities. And, the price is often incredibly cheap, often as low as $1 for a serving of freshly made food.
With food in hand, you can comfortably eat by sitting on plastic stools or whatever seating is provided, often on the side of the road, or in an area reserved for street food preparation. However, in many South East Asian cities, street food is under threat.
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Local authorities in many, large, Asian cities are looking to improve health and reduce traffic congestion throughout their communities. A side effect of this has been to remove many of the street food vendors from the street and provide areas within shopping malls, where they can operate with refrigeration, permanent cooking facilities and running hot and cold water. Street vendors are moving to be the food court operators in the local mall.
The advantages of the better facilities include less health issues, as well as enjoying your food in air-conditioned comfort, and maybe a larger number of vendors within the one food court.
These are noble outcomes, but for me I prefer the street food the way it used to be. Being outside is always a good thing and there is no doubt that prices are a lot more expensive in the food courts than on the street. Eating in a food court just isn’t the same as eating street food on the street on a plastic stool!
Hong Kong, Singapore and particularly Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, have slowly but surely removed many street food areas from their cities into the food courts of malls. Pleasingly, Chiang Mai, in Thailand has not yet followed this trend.
In Malaysia, one of the quintessential street foods found throughout the country is a Char Kuey Teow recipe.
A Simple Char Kuey Teow Recipe for One
The quantities below are for 1 serving. Feel free to substitute any of the ingredients to suit what you have in your kitchen. There are 2 important factors for success for any stir fry dish like this.
Firstly, cut your vegetables into consistent pieces and cut everything before you start cooking, as stir fry cooking is quick. I like to place the ingredients, so they are right at hand, when it is time to cook.
The second important factor is to have your cooking implement hot, to help char the food and get the aromas going. The implement designed for this style of cooking was the wok, with it’s tossing tool. Woks are great, but a deep sauté pan can also work well. I find cooking over a gas flame to provide the most heat for your wok or saute pan, as well as instant control, if you need to turn the heat up or down.