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Char kway teow

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Char kway teow, literally "stir-fried ricecake strips", is a popular noodle dish in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore. The dish was (and still is in some places in Malaysia and Singapore) typically prepared at hawker stalls especially in Penang, Malaysia.

It is made from flat rice noodles of approximately 1 cm or (in the north of Malaysia) about 0.5 cm in width, stir-fried over very high heat with light and dark soy sauce, chilli, a small quantity of belachan, whole prawns, deshelled cockles, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives. The dish may commonly be stir-fried with egg, slices of Chinese sausage and fishcake, and less commonly with other ingredients. Char kway teow is traditionally stir-fried in pork fat, with crisp croutons of pork lard, and commonly served on a piece of banana leaf on a plate.

Char kway teow has a reputation of being unhealthy due to its high saturated fat content. However, when the dish was first invented, it was mainly served to labourers. The high fat content and low cost of the dish made it attractive to these people as it was a cheap source of energy and nutrients. When the dish was first served, it was often sold by fishermen, farmers and cockle-gatherers who doubled as char kway teow hawkers in the evening to supplement their income.


As the dish has become increasingly popular, many cooks have come up with their own interpretations of the same basic main ingredient of ricecake strips/flat rice noodles fried with anything from eggs (chicken or duck), onions, garlic, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage, etc.

Of all the notable versions, the Penang style of char kway teow is the most famous. Its popularity leads many char koay teow sellers outside Penang to call their products "Penang char koay teow" in order to attract customers.

In the past it was usual to stir-fry char kway teow in pork fat without eggs (which were, however, available on request). More recently, ordinary cooking oil is commonly used for health or religious reasons, and eggs have become a standard ingredient in the dish.

The char kway teow in Kampar, Perak, Malaysia, is served with cockles but with no prawns (although prawns may be available on request). According to old Kampar char kway teow sellers, this is because Kampar was not near any source of fresh prawns. Kampar char kway teow is also slightly sour.

In other parts of Malaysia, such as Miri in East Malaysia, additional ingredients may include beef, onions, sweet soya sauce, etc. Versions of char koay teow prepared by Muslims in Malaysia will exclude pork fat and may include extra soy sauces and spices and the use of broader-width flat rice noodles. There are also vegetarian varieties that may or may not include eggs.

There are also "gourmet" versions of char kway teow, commonly found in Ipoh and Penang, where the dish may be prepared with more seafood, with crab meat and with duck eggs.

In Indonesia, the dish is known as Kwetiau Goreng (Indonesian: fried flat rice noodles) and is served in Chinese restaurants and by traveling street hawkers. The Indonesian version is less oily, uses no lard, and normally incorporates beef or chicken to cater to the majority Muslim population. However, some Chinese restaurants in Indonesia that serve non-Muslim customers do use pork and pork fat.

Char kway teow is also popular at takeaways in Australia and New Zealand, where it may appear on the menu as 'Kwai Due' or some variant spelling thereof.

In Myanmar, a variety called the Beik Kut kyae kaik (the Beik Scissor bite) exists. It is popular in the southern coastal regions around the town of Mergui ("Baik" is the Burmese pronunciation) and in Yangon, the largest city in the country. It uses more pepper and seafood compared to the kway teow of Singapore and Malaysia. The rice noodles are slightly thinner and are stir-fried with boiled soft brown peas, bean sprouts, squid and prawns, spring onions and dark sweet soy sauce. After being stir-fried, the noodles are cut with scissors (kut kyae in Burmese), thus its name. In many Asian fusion restaurants in America, such as the popular Cafe Asia chain, this dish is offered under the name Gway Tiao.

Many Southeast Asian restaurants in Hong Kong offer char kway teow as a Malay specialty although it is of Southeast Asian Chinese origin. The char kway teow served in Hong Kong is an entirely different dish: stir-fried Chinese-style flat rice noodles with prawns, char siu, onions, and bean sprouts, seasoned with curry and bright yellow in colour. In some places this is known as Fried "Good Dale".

In Vietnamese cuisine, a similar stir-fried noodle dish is called hủ tiếu. Thai cuisine has its own version called pad see ew.

In Singapore, Char Kway Teow has evolved into a healthier version with more vegetables and less oil. Furthermore, the greens and bean sprouts gives off a fresh, crunchy texture that makes its taste even more unique.

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