Friday, July 27, 2012

Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Rice Noodles)

Char Kway Teow

This has been on my to-make list for a long time, and I'm happy to have tackled it.  Plus, I wanted to highlight a savory dish since I've covered nothing but sweets lately.  Char Kway Teow, a Malaysian dish of slightly spicy stir-fried rice noodles, is a favorite of mine.  My mother, who is from Malaysia, would often order the dish for me in restaurants when I was a kid.  This version has shrimp, Chinese sausage, Chinese chives, and bean sprouts.  In restaurants in New York or Boston, there is no sausage but there are usually dozens of tiny squids that I ask them to leave out.  Other versions on the Internet call for cockles (no, thanks) or fish cakes (I like those).  But I like everything in this version, and the minimum level of fussiness appealed to me.

Dried Shrimp Paste

The dried shrimp paste, also known as Belacan, gives it great depth of flavor.  I was unfamiliar with it, and it was not in the Asian market aisle labeled "shrimp paste" but in the Malaysian aisle.  The one fussy-looking step I skipped was roasting it in foil -- I just sauteed until fragrant, and proceeded with the recipe.  And if you've never cooked with the fresh rice noodles before, don't refrigerate them, and use them the day you buy them or they will dry out and harden.  I also doubled the amount of bean sprouts, because what else am I going to do with the rest of the bag?

In the end, making the dish was easier than I anticipated, making me wonder why I waited all these years to try.  And it's pretty darned good.

Char Kway Teow
From Saveur

Serves 2

1 tbs dried shrimp paste (Belacan)
3 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed, torn into pieces, and soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained (I used dried red Chinese chilies)
3 tbs peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1 6-inch dried Chinese link sausage, peeled and thinly sliced
1 10-oz. package fresh broad Chinese rice noodles, rinsed and drained
1 tbs double black soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
4 oz. bean sprouts (I doubled this)
6 Chinese chives or scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths

Place shrimp paste on a small piece of foil, and wrap around paste to form a packet; heat broiler to high and broil packet until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let paste cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and add drained chiles; using a knife, cut and mash paste and chiles together until a smooth paste forms; set paste aside.

Heat oil in a wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. Add paste, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and sausage, and cook, flipping shrimp once, until barely pink, about 1 minute. Break noodles apart with your fingers and add to wok along with soy sauce and sugar; cook, stirring often, until noodles are evenly coated and heated through, about 1 minute.

Make a well in the center of the noodles; add egg, and cook, without stirring, until the white is half-set, about 45 seconds. Add sprouts and chives, and stir noodles and egg until evenly incorporated and sprouts and chives begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.


  1. Oh, squid just gives me the creeps! My husband's family eats squid and I can't even look at it--I think it's the tentacles. And cockles? Well, I'm gonna have to Google that one... ;)

    1. I hate the tentacles, but the rings are rubbery and weird too. I don't like it as calamari either. But this dish in the restaurants would have the entire little squid in thimble size, all over my plate. I prefer my squid-free version! :)

      The first time I saw cockles in a recipe, I kinda had an idea of what it was but looked it up anyway. lol

  2. Although I've never had this Malaysian noodle dish, I know I'd love it. There is a Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant about 40 mins from here and I really want to go back to eat and explore - probably faster than going to Singapore/Malaysia, which is on one of my bucket list. I love squid and it gives nice savory flavor to the dish. I like my Yakisoba (Japanese stir fried noodle) to include squid for that reason. I would love this dish, Shirley and I'm already hungry looking at this photo!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad the local Malaysian restaurant is only 25 minutes away. I'd really like to return to Malaysia and Singapore again to explore -- haven't been there since I was a little kid.

  3. trying malaysian food has been on my "to do" list for a while. but, i haven't found any good restaurants nearby. i think i will just have to make this myself and thankfully, it looks pretty simple to prepare with loads of flavor!!!
    -Abeer @

  4. I looooove char kway teow, although I've never had an authentic Singaporean version. My favourite is the cantonese version with rice noodles, soy sauce, onions, and beef. Great photo!

    1. Beef Chow Fun -- one of my all-time favorites also!

  5. Thanks for the tips on how to use the paste and noodles! I've been on a huge noodle kick and it'd be nice to make them at home for once instead of ordering so much takeout!


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