I have never felt this productive in my life since my older girl decided to join the cheer team. While there's certainly a lot of joy involved in parenthood, it is not unusual to also feel overwhelmed with a busy schedule between my two girls' band lessons, art classes, seven days a week of gymnastics and cheer practices, and competitions, leaving me exhausted by the end of the day. It's one of the main reasons why I have been blogging less. But today I was determined to block everything else out and just stay focus on the task at hand.
If you've been following my Facebook page, I have mentioned that I have been cooking up a frenzy to fundraise for a koi pond for my dear husband. We had a beautiful little pond at the old home and I know he misses it.
One of the dishes I've been making is a Malaysian dish called Char Kuey Teow per a friend's request who misses his homeland food. I have never seen or tasted it but I gave it my best shot. After carefully studying the ingredients of Char Kuey Teow, I made a first batch and waited for my daughter to come home from school to taste test it. She gave me thumbs up. After delivering Char Kuey Teow to my customers, I anxiously waited for my critiques as if I was on Chopped. I received high marks on my first try, it gave me the confidence to challenge myself even more. Ever since, I have more Malaysian customers who requested me to make Char Kuey Teow almost every week. My husband has been complaining because I sell out every single order of Char Kuey Teow every time and he still hasn't had a chance to taste this dish yet.
Char Kuey Teow literally means Stir-Fry Rice Cake. It is one of the most popular street food in Malaysia, and is considered a national favorite in Malaysia and Singapore. Many people from all over Asia travel to Penang just to indulge in a plate of it. Char Kuey Teow is made from fresh flat rice noodle and stir-fried over very high heat with shrimps, slices of Chinese sausage, fishcake, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives. It is is traditionally stir-fried in lard, with crisp pork fat cubes to add the smoky flavor, richness, and crispy texture to the dish. I am fond of banana leaves so I like to serve Char Kuey Teow on a piece of banana leaf on a plate not only to enhance the lovely subtle aroma that it lends to the dish but also to achieve a more Penang authentic style.
RECIPE: Malaysian Char Kuey Teow
12 oz fresh noodle
8 large shrimps, tail-on, peeled, deveined
12 slices pan-fried fish cake
1/2 Chinese sausage, sliced
3 duck or chicken eggs
a handful bean sprouts, rinsed well and drained.
1/2 handful garlic chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon bacon grease, or lard, or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon crispy pork fat cubes, optional
for the sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
Preparing Crispy Pork Fat Cubes
Pork fat can be purchased at Asian stores. Ask the butcher.
Crispy pork fat can be prepared a few days ahead. Remove pork skin. Dice the pork fat into small cubes but not too small. They will shrink during the process. Put them in a large pot and render the pork fat cubes over medium heat, occasionally stirring. As the cubes release more and more fat, the rendered fat tends to splatter quite a bit so be careful. It's done when the pork fat cubes are brown and start to float and not burn. Turn off the stove. The lard pieces will continue cooking in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown. Remove them from the oil. Drain the crispy pork fat cubes on a paper towel or a strainer. Let it cool and store in a air tight jar. Store pork oil separately. Crispy pork fat that is stored on top of the counter top near the stove or in the pantry will last about a month and stays, the freshest longest about a year when you keep it in the refrigerator between uses.
Preparing the Sauce
In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and mix well.
If you don’t have access to fresh noodle, you can make your own rice noodle (click here
for the recipe). Noodle can be kept at room temperature for a day. Do not keep the noodle in the fridge as it becomes brittle. Separate the noodle strands. Set aside.
Preparing Fried Fish Cake
Fried fish cake can be homemade or purchased at Asian stores. You can prepare fish cake days ahead.
To make fish cake, combine a pound of tilapia fillets, a shallot or white part of green onion, a tablespoon of fish sauce, ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon tapioca starch in a food processor and whip into a smooth paste. Transfer 1/2 of the fish paste onto the plastic wrap. Wrap it up and flatten it to make a patty. Chill the fish cakes in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Thaw fish cake before frying.
Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add in the fish cakes and fry for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the cakes occasionally so they brown evenly.
For your Char Kuey Teow to taste like the one in Malaysia requires the right fresh ingredients, tools, and the correct techniques. You need a good quality wok such as cast iron or carbon steel. Non-stick will not work well as it can't withstand super high temperatures. I don't have a wok so I used my All Clad pan. As I mentioned earlier, Char Kuey Teow requires cooking with lard in high heat to add the smoky flavor, and richness to the dish. It's requires cooking one batch at a time and a quick stirring of the noodle. The result is a perfectly soft, slightly charred, smoky flavored noodle.
So be sure to have all the ingredients by your side.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add the lard or vegetable oil. Once the wok is almost smoking, add the shrimps, sausages, and fish cake. Stir quickly until shrimps are almost pink. Add garlic last as it can get burned easily.
Give it a quick stir then add noodle. Quickly pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the noodle and stir the noodle quickly in the circle motion starting from the center of the pan with a spatula.
When the noodle is soften and mixed well with the sauce, push the noodle aside or create a spot in the middle. Crack the eggs (prefer duck eggs as they have a richer flavor) and stir to break the yolks.
Stir the eggs with the noodles until the eggs have almost set. Finally, add chives, bean sprouts, and a tablespoon of crispy pork fat cubes. Continue stir frying noodles and vegetables until combined.
If you want your Char Kuey Teow to look authentic like Penang style, transfer noodle to a serving plate lined with banana leaf, serve hot and enjoy as is or kick it up a notch with chili sauce.
Eat well. Stay healthy.