This extremely popular dish of flat rice noodles has a vibrant history. In its early days, char kway teow was mostly sold by fishermen and farmers who doubled up as food peddlers at night to supplement their income; they used to use leftovers from meals to whip up this dish, hence its multiple ingredient mix.
Char kway teow, loosely translated as “stir-fried rice cake noodles”, is made by stir-frying flat rice noodles (similar to the Italian tagliatelle) with light and dark soy sauce, a dash of belachan (shrimp paste), tamarind juice, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, lap cheong (Chinese sausages) and cockles. In its original recipe, the rice noodles are also stir-fried in using crisp bits of pork lard thereby giving the dish its distinctive, rich taste.
In recent years, the dish has evolved into a healthier version with hawkers adding more vegetables and using vegetable oil instead of lard. This not only makes the dish healthy but the greens and bean sprouts give it a freshness and crunchy texture, adding to the overall star quality of this old-time favourite. The clanging wok and sweet-smelling hot air wafting from it gives it a heady, sensuous dimension of sight, smell and sound; and that’s even before you’ve taken a bite!
Char kway teow is easily available at most food centres in Singapore, such as at the Maxwell Road Hawker Food Centre and Amoy Food Centre. Choose from with cockles, with or without chilli, to go with a plate of sizzling hot char kway teow, and have a hearty meal that satisfies your sinful cravings. If you’re heading to Zouk for a spot of clubbing, then why not stop off at the nearby Zion Road Hawker Centre (no need to mention the stall here; you’ll recognise it instantly from its long queues of eager customers) for a scrumptious plate of this famous dish from a much-lauded, famous hawker.