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 strips”, 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 pork fat using crisp bits of pork lard, resulting in a distinctively rich taste.
In recent years, the dish as evolved into a healthier version with hawkers serving up more greens and adding less oil. 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 Centre, and it’s also a signature dish at the Princess Terrace Café. Choose from either cockles or prawns 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.