Penang MFF: Char Kueh Tiaw

I have only been to Penang a handful of times and all I remember (with the exception of most recently trip when we just went in and out for a gig) was how much I ate each time. But I’ll say my very first trip there back in 2009 was the most “filling”. Here are some of the culinary delights we sampled during the trip.

Wanton Mee, also called Tok Tok Mee locally.
Wanton Mee, also called Tok Tok Mee locally.

This was so good I had it 2 days in a row.

Assam Prawns
Assam Prawns

Ridiculously big prawns with that delicious coating. Pretty memorable.

Lok Lok at Gurney Drive
Lok Lok at Gurney Drive

That was my first introduction to Lok Lok and I still think Penang does it better than KL.

Chendal @ Penang Road. This actually came from a recent trip (H-Artistry)
Chendal @ Penang Road. This actually came from a recent trip (H-Artistry)

So creamy and the palm sugar gave such a depth of flavour. Loved it.

Something cooling! It's a must in Penang since everything is heaty!
Something cooling! It’s a must in Penang since everything is heaty.

I’m not sure what this is called, but it’s a variety of Tong Shui that is sweet and refreshing.

And of course how could we leave Penang without trying Char Kueh Tiaw? It’s the first dish that comes into my mind actually (Assam Laksa doesn’t count since I never acquired a liking for it) and also the dish I’d like to share today.

Char Kueh Tiaw at Kimberly Street
Char Kueh Tiaw at Kimberly Street

Pretty late with my contribution to the Malaysian Food Fest this month, as I have been avoiding cooking/eating heaty food for the good half of the month. And most of the famous Penang dishes are not suitable with my current diet, until I gave in to my impulse/craving and cooked the infamous Char Kueh Tiaw. Sorry throat! I did follow up that dish with some cooling tea so no damage was done. Phew!

Can hardly see the noodles in this photo. That's how much toppings I've piled on.
Can hardly see the noodles in this photo. That’s how much toppings I’ve piled on.

Penang Char Kueh (or Koay) Tiaw, 槟城炒粿条 is originally a Teochew dish (I learnt something new). Although this is not commonly prepared at home as you need the big fire either over charcoal or big stove to procure enough wok breath for that extra flavour. So even though my version is tasty enough in its own right, it will never be the same as the ones you get from the stalls. Good news though, it’s probably less heaty too (yes I know I’m constantly on about this, one day I shall write an article about the food I generally avoid in order to protect my voice).

Raw stuff including the cockles.
Raw stuff including the cockles. Not worried about them being next to the greens since they all get to cooked in high heat together.

The most important thing to do before cooking this is to get all your ingredients ready. The steps are so quick there’s no time to muck around trying to fetch each component. Kuah Tiaw noodles are delicate so extra care is needed when stiring them around. Broken noodles aren’t that enjoyable, not to mention they’ll so soggy sooner too.

This recipe came from Alan’s blog which he adapted from Ong Jin Teong’s “Penang Heritage Food”

Penang Char Kueh Tiaw (serves 1)
50g fresh koay teow (flat rice noodles)
5 medium-large prawns, heads removed, peeled and deveined
1 clove of garlic, crushed, peeled and chopped finely
handful of bean sprouts, rinsed and set aside.
1 chinese sausages, sausage casing removed and sliced thinnly
2-3 stalks chives, rinsed and cut into 3-4 cm lengthwise (substituted with Spring onions because my supermarket didn’t have the Chinese chives)
1 tablespoon chili boh (substituted with store bought sambal chili)
1 large Egg
2 tablespoons (I used pork lard) stir-frying
1 tablespoon light soya sauc
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark soya sauce
Dash of pepper
Blood cockles
Croutons of deep fried pork lardons aka bak eu phok (I baked mine instead)
Water as needed

Wash blood cockles by rubbing them around submerged in water to dislodge any debris stuck on their shells. Rinse thoroughly, place the cockles in a large bowl and pour hot water over them for the shells to open. Remove each cockle from the shell with a teaspoon or toothpick and leave to soak in a bit of water. Discard shells.

Heat a wok until it begins to smoke and add cooking oil, swirling the oil around. Add sliced chinese sausages for them to saute slightly before adding the chopped garlic and stir continuously until aromatic.

Add the prawns and stir fry quickly until they develop a pinkish hue. Add the chilli boh paste and stir quickly for a few strokes to spread the chili paste and coat the prawns.

Add koay teow, followed by light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, pepper and fish sauce if using. Stir well for 30 seconds or so until the koay teow is uniformly colored and the prawns thoroughly cooked. Add 1 tbsp of water around the perimeter of the wok if the noodles become too dry. Bean sprouts can be added now if using.

Push everything in the wok to one side and add 1 tbsp of oil to the “cleared space”. Crack the egg over the oil and partially scramble with a spatula. When it is half cooked and still slightly runny, mix the egg with the other ingredients.

Add chopped chives and drained cockles and give everything a good final stir before turning off the fire.

Plate up and serve immediately with a generous sprinkling of crispy pork lard.

The aroma was irresistible.
The aroma was irresistible.

For my first ever attempt on Penang Char Kueh Tiaw, I thought this tasted pretty close to authentic (minus the wok hei, of course). I would perhaps use only half the lap cheong next time (not a huge fan) but more blood cockles, since they are also unbelievably cheap. Hope you will try this at home and tell me if it works for you too.

I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest, Penang Month hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Penang’s lok lok is so muchy cheaper compared to KL’s! i had once in KL and a stick can go up to RM 5 and more, crazy shit!!! here mostly less than RM 1!

    me no likey asam laksa cos they add loads of ginger bud and some other smelly grasses 😦

    your char kuey teow looks yummy! so muchy ‘liu’ added in too! 🙂

    1. kellysiew says:

      Less choices too with Lok Lok in KL. And you are right it can get pretty expensive!

  2. Ken says:

    you may also add in seafood like Squid, Mantis Prawns and substitute chicken egg with duck egg! 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      It’s originally made with duck egg right? Not so easy to find nowadays. I’ve never tried mantis prawns before.

  3. shuhan says:

    This post is making me feel so hungry and incredibly jealous. Couldn’t bear to scroll down haha. But glad I did, because the penang ckt recipe looks ace! I love ckt!! So miss it! But maybe now I can actually go ahead and enjoy some here in London!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Yeah! I believe you can get most of the ingredients over there! Do it soon. 🙂

  4. stella says:


  5. yay, char kuey teow has been comfort food for me ever since i was a teenager. after a tiring day at school, i’d sometimes walk home (40 mins) and stop by the CKT stall for a plate that cost barely RM1. and it had plenty of delicious cockles in it too, just like yours 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      I don’t think I put enough cockles lol! Less than RM1 is so amazingly cheap!

  6. suituapui says:

    Haven’t been to Penang for a while now… I would say your char kway teow looks a whole lot nicer than what you had there.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Nicer with more toppings but the wok hei wasn’t there lor.

  7. Dear Kelly,

    Your CKT looks good with so much toppings although I doubt I will cook this at home since it will never be as good as the ones with the commercial wok burners like you said.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Yeah especially if you have easy access to a good one!

  8. CK says:

    Ionly been Penang twice….. I want to revisit again, for coffee and food! hehehe

  9. peach says:

    i love penang for its heritage and buildings, and i also love the food there 🙂 thanks for sharing the recipe Kelly 🙂

  10. Just reading this story makes me want to hurry back to Penang… everything looks so delicious!

  11. agentcikay says:

    I’d take your version anyday. Penang CKT overrated and overpriced. sorry! 😛

    1. kellysiew says:

      Actually I have no idea how much it is now. More expensive than KL? Mine have big big prawns so not very cheap also.

  12. All the ingredients we love!! I would like to make this for my family next time when my children are home and when we have dinner together.

    1. kellysiew says:

      I’m sure you will make a lovely version! 😀

  13. Phong Hong says:

    Yummy, Kelly! I have never attempted fried kueh teow at home for fear of making a mess of it. Yours is kind of motivating so I shall try it one of these days. Am avoiding certain foods not for my voice (nothing will help me sing hah! hah!) but for my fats 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hehe it is possible to do CKT without making a mess. I avoid some food for the same reason too lol!

  14. I miss Penang! I want to go home for a visit!! Waaaaaa

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