Sunday, January 9, 2005

Recipe: DIY-CKT

I have loved Char Kuey Teow for as long as I can remember. It is pure genius how such a simple dish can bring so much pleasure to the palate. As a result, I have scoured the land looking for the best Char Kuey Teow in the planet only to find it in my own backyard - my hometown, Taiping. Now since I don't have the luxury of going home very often, I have been experimenting with ways to make this dish myself.

A recipe five years in the making, I present to you DIY Char Kuey Teow! This is the way the finest hawkers in Taiping have made it.
500gms Fresh Kuey Teow
300gms Bean Sprouts
2 Stalks Chives - cut in 2 inch length
2 Cloves Garlic - chopped
Chilli Paste (Cili Gilling)

Shrimps & Cockles

3tbsp Dark Sauce
3tbsp Light Sauce
3/4bowls Water

3tbsp Maggi Chicken/Anchovies Stock
3/4bowls Water
Now, any idiot can put a bunch of ingredients in a wok, but it takes a special idiot to make it taste good. So before we begin to make our Char Kuey Teow, there are two important facts to acknowledge. It is the Zen of Char Kuey Teow.
1. The Chinese make the world's best Char Kuey Teow.

2. Chinese cooking is like Chinese Kungfu.
This is not some racist jibe. In order to make a good Char Kuey Teow, the fundamentals of Chinese cooking must be employed. In this instance, there are two: Never ever overcook and never, in the course of cooking, quell the "FIRE" of this magnificent dish. Okay. Now that that's out of the way, let's Char Kuey Teow! In 10 easy steps.

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil. With your spatula, spread it all round the wok. When it starts smoking, the oil is hot enough. Failure to do so will result in the Kuey Teow noodle sticking to the wok.

2. Throw in the garlic. Most Chinese chefs will tell you that literally throwing in the garlic brings out its aroma. Who are we to argue? Fry till light brown. You have to watch it since garlic tends to cook pretty quickly.

3. Put in your shrimps, add in a dash of the Sauce mix and stir a couple of times. Do not overcook. Overcooked prawns taste like leather.

4. Quickly add in the Kuey Teow noodle. Now Kuey Teow is a flat ribbon-like rice noodle, not unlike fettucini. Most good traders carry two type - the narrow ones for soup noodles and the broader ones (almost 2 cm) which are perfect for this dish. Add in more sauce and add in the chilli paste. Then give it a couple of stirs to even out the stuff.

5. Now here's where the Zen comes in. Add in the broth. You'll want to do this with a soup ladle and NEVER pour it directly onto the Kuey Teow. That will "extinguish the fire" of your Char Kuey Teow. Instead, pour slowly around the edge of the wok in a circular motion letting it sizzle its way into the mix. This is a fundamental that can be applied in all stir-fry dishes.

6. Add in chives. The Chinese call this "Kau Choy" or "Kuchai". This gives the dish some color and it's really quite lovely to eat. Toss the mix.

7. Next, push all the wok's content to one side away from the main heat of the work. Put a dash of oil in the middle of the wok, break in an egg. Add a dash of the sauce mix and pepper for taste. Then mess it all up and let the egg coagulate a little. Once done, mix in the Kuey Teow.

8. Then comes a crucial part. Quickly throw in the Beansprouts and add more broth while exercising extreme caution. Undercooked beansprouts tastes "green". While overcooked ones taste like fiber! To know for sure, take a taste test. The moment it stops tasting raw, it's time to take out your Char Kuey Teow.

9. Finally, if you so desire, add in a few cockles and fold it in letting the heat of your Kuey Teow cook it. Now I hate cockles. I never eat the stuff. But say what you like, cockles actually enhance this dish.

10. Eat it while it's hot.

The ingredients above serve four. But never ever fry it all at once. Good Kuey Teow must be cooked one plate at a time. Also, most folks tend to overcook this. As a guide, the whole frying process should take you no longer than 2 minutes. And finally, always make sure your wok is hot.

By the way, I took a short cut with the Broth. For the real thing, check out Pick Yin's recipe! Now go forth and fry. And do tell me the results.

faster than instant noodles

UPDATE 10 Jan 04
As some of you might have noticed, this recipe is Halal - ala Doli's in Taiping. Also, I should mention that you must always make CKT in a large wok. Mine's 24 inches in diameter. You need the space to toss the mix. CKT in a regular frying pan just isn't gonna cut it. :)


  1. that looks really yummy :)
    have to try that out sometime!

  2. Heya, an occasional lurker.
    Looks really really yummy. I've not had CKT for a very long while. Tried one down at the shop in Australia and it's not good at all. Now I have the recipe, I'll see if I can become a special idiot!

  3. I think this can come in handy if you are out of work. Maybe you can teach cooking to new housewives? or venture into CKT biz. Hehe.

  4. hey James , how about a video?

  5. looks like the real CKT in the hawker stall lah :P Making me so so hungry just looking at it...too bad for me, can't eat any until July....
    Lucky husband who can cook so well :)

  6. thks for info, james, but i pass the place everyday and it's changed name and our good friend, the rather effeminate gentleman, is no longer there, nor is the boss and the helper either. Some other female manning the shop now. ??

  7. Penang people also drooling at your CKT. I like mine with duck eggs but not many stalls have them.

  8. bastard. now im craving for CKT.

  9. wow! i luv char koay teow too! the best CKT comes from penang of course. ;)
    thanks for the recipe. it looks so simple eh.

  10. Wow James, I must say I am very impressed! Finally, a man who can cook and multitask i.e. cooking and take pixs simultaneously!
    FYI, there's another way of cooking CKT - place the egg after the garlic turns light brown.
    Extremely hungry now :-)

  11. wooo hooo ... u are like me! or vice versa ... haha
    ok actually u are kinda insulting this marvelous dish ...
    1. u never put in the cockles ...
    2. not enough chives la ...
    3. arghhhh where is the pork lard? u mean u do not have lard in ur dish? ....
    hehe ....

  12. arghhhh Chow Keow Teow with no pork lard!!!!!!
    Halal Version?

  13. Do tell me the results, Anonymous! :)
    :lol: Lisa, here's hoping you'll become a special idiot quickly enough.
    Well Gina, CKT will be a good back-up plan only if I can convince enough people to eat it. Hehh!
    Y'know Burrp, I probably should. We'll see what happens.
    Hhhahh Cherry, that's what the recipe is for. So that you can eat it no matter where you are.
    Reg. Reader: I have no idea. Must have sold the shop, I guess.
    You are a woman of exquisite taste Lillian. My favourite stall in Taiping sells it with duck eggs.
    Then cook it, Leo. :lol:
    You're most welcome, Andrea.
    It is quite easy to make, Lucia. But getting the timing right is gonna take a bit of trail and error. :) Oh, btw, judging from your comment, you must not have been to Taiping. *ahaks*
    :lol: Anjali, as you can imagine, that one plate featured in the pix was a little overcooked. Heh!
    Yes Earl-ku, you caught me. I did not put in the cockles for that one. And I did not feature pork lard here because I wanted this recipe available to anyone and everyone!

  14. lol ... normally my mom would prepare this dish, i'll let her do all the preparing and wait till she finish frying the pork lard ... then i'll say "u sit outside, let me kau tim k ...."
    haha lazy me!

  15. Are you sure the best ckt comes from taiping ? I've been staying in Penang for the past 15 years and personally i find penang's ckt is the best.....muakkkkk !!!

  16. Lucky Mae. My hubby kenot even differentiate between onions and garlics! BTW, you always cook by putting all the ingredients in small little dishes like pro wan ah? After dat who wash up? Hehe.

  17. CKT wih no pork lard is abit potong stim,right?
    Hey,have you tried fried the CKT with charcoals instead of fire???It taste much better and more wangi lah!

  18. i just had lunch and yet i'm suddenly feeling hungry agian...i wonder why :P kekekek
    Cheers!!! :D

  19. yum yummm... woooo James Can Cook!!! :p

  20. wow!!! I m droooling by just looking at the pic. Make me just wanna go out and have a plate! Yum!

  21. taukeh!!! one plate, Kuey Teow + Mee yar? add more taugeh & kuchai oso!!! tak mau pedas!!!

  22. i dun eat anything that has kuey-teow in it....and u even made me drool. i think its the prawns... ;-)

  23. I'm impressed. Thanks for the recipe, Will try it out soon! Your photos are making me crave for Penang CKT lah!

  24. oooo... *droolz*... hungry now for CKT wif "see ham" ;)

  25. i dont eat CKT because there are lotsa taugeh in it. would it still taste the same w/o taugeh? if yes, i'd love to give it a try :)

  26. :lol: You're a smart guy, Earl!
    Then you must visit Taiping one day, Beauty. :)
    Hahhah, yes Mumsgather, I like to be very organised in the kitchen. And don't worry, I do most of my own washing as well. :) Mae just eats. :lol:
    Yes Jason, the best stalls in Taiping use charcoal.
    I'll take that as a compliment, Hyelbaine. :)
    BabeKL, James can eat better than he can cook.
    What go out, Papi? Get Mami to make lah. Better still you make for Mami lah. :)
    Dua ringgit lapan, Oli! :)
    Vaveevum, no kuey teow? How can!??! :lol:
    Let me know how it goes, Janus. :)
    You're one of those rare guys who take SeeHum, Buaya! :)
    But I still won't eat it, Mdmdafia!
    Yes Hazel, it will still taste good without Taugeh. Just don't try to replace taugeh with any other veggie. That's just wrong!!! :)

  27. this is Fabulous! I've tried the recipe - tweakign it slightly because there is no cockles and kuchai where I live (unless you count the European chives) and replaced with chicken, mussels and spring onions!
    oh wow it worked!!! LEKKER (yummy in Dutch) thanks for quenching my craving ;-)

  28. Somethings wrong with my browser..what are the ingredients for the sauce...desperate need for a reply as have promised CKT party!! Arghhh

  29. Thanks for the update, Mangolisa! :)
    -v-: The sauce is just 3 tbsp Dark Sauce; 3 tbsp Light Sauce; 3/4 bowls Water. Good luck with your party!

  30. It worked..despite many substitutions..Yummy!!! Might try it with chicken next time, cos fresh prawns are not easy to come by in the UK. Thanks!!

  31. oh my GOD! char kuey tiau orgasm! if i cud just eat it off the screen...

  32. Hi James,
    I feel very pai-seh, hainanese well known about the cooking skill, and I onl know how to mae baby food. I have to learn more liao.
    you CKT really like the store selling wan wor, OK tonight we will have CKT.
    nice blog, I like your jiu-pai "A few fries short of a happy meal".

  33. Congrats, V! :)
    :lol: I wouldn't want to disagree with you marinadelrey!
    Thanks for dropping by, Twinsmom!

  34. JAMES!!! your CKT is a life saviour!!! i was just about to die in this american continent wth no CKT whatsoever! i like the pic description u had. very helpful! i have been dishing out pad thai (the closest i get to CKT) gosh i am dying for CKT, asam laksa and my hometown fav...bak kut teh!!!
    oh well... thanks again and keep blogging, its hillarious! later ...
    Portland, OR

  35. Thanks for dropping by CalvK. And for trying out the recipe! :)

  36. You're a life saver James. I don't have to drive 75 miles to go eat CKT anymore. THANK YOU!!

  37. MUST try this SOOOON, i'm salivating.

  38. Going to try now

  39. CKT is a weekly thing for both my husband and I. Its also one of the first few things we rush to when we come back from long overseas trip.
    One suggestion -- try double egg with extra chilli and breansprout. Its whammy!