Char Kuey Teow (炒粿條/Penang Fried Flat Noodles)
November 03rd, 2009 160 Comments

Char Kuey Teow (炒粿條/Penang Fried Flat Noodles)

Char Kuey Teow
Char Kuey Teow pictures (2 of 5)

When it comes to Penang hawker food/street food, there are a few dishes that are chart-toppers: Penang Assam Laksa, Hokkien Prawn Noodles, and Char Kuey Teow. It’s hard to decide which one is the most popular, but if you go to Penang, you won’t—and don’t want to—miss these three stellar hawker food.

Char Kuey Teow is basically flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, bloody cockles, Chinese lap cheong (sausage), eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce. A great serving of Char Kuey Teow is flavored not only with the freshest ingredients, but equally important is the elusive charred aroma from stir-frying the noodles over very high heat in a well-seasoned Chinese wok.

The mouthwatering aroma is the “wok hei” or breath of wok. If you’ve been to Penang and walk on streets where there are Char Kuey Teow hawkers, you’ll know what I mean. A great Char Kuey Teow beckons you from blocks away; the tempting aroma fills the air and lure diners in from afar. The very thought of that smell is enough to set my stomach rumbling.

While Char Kuey Teow can be found throughout Malaysia, the Penang version reigns supreme. I’ve heard many stories about tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, and beyond who trek religiously to Penang for a satisfying meal of the dish. Somehow, Char Kuey Teow from outside of Penang is simply an inferior shadow of the real stuff—lack of wok hei, too dark in color, and/or wrong taste and texture. And that’s the very reason why Malaysians from out-of-state would go to Penang—just to have a plate of Char Kuey Teow.

Char Kuey Teow

Char Kuey Teow is one the most requested recipes on Rasa Malaysia. I have readers who’ve been begging me to post my Char Kuey Teow recipe since three years ago. Great things, especially a perfect recipe, is worth waiting for. Of course I’ve made Char Kuey Teow many times, but I wanted to share the ultimate Char Kuey Teow recipe, and this is it.

So, what are my secrets?

  1. Get the freshest ingredients—fresh and crunchy bean sprouts, freshly-made noodles, big, fat, succulent shrimp/prawn, bloody cockles (I love my Char Kuey Teow with them, without them, it’s not quite the same!), etc.
  2. Wonder why the prawn in Penang Char Kuey Teow are always so succulent, juicy, and sweet? I believe some of the most famous stalls treat their prawn with sugar and ice water, or perhaps they are just very fresh.
  3. Use lard if you can. That’s the secret for the rich silky taste.
  4. Very hot wok.
  5. Control your timing of cooking and hence control your “wok hei.”

Without further ado, here is my secret Char Kuey Teow recipe and a detailed step-by-step picture guide that everyone is waiting for. Char Kuey Teow is seriously scrumptious and I don’t see why it can’t be as popular and well-known as Pad Thai and the likes on the global stage. I strongly believe that one day, the world will discover the delicacy that is Penang’s Char Kuey Teow.

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160 comments... read them below or add one

  1. S says:

    Firstly, I absolutely LOVE your website. It has all of the dishes that I loved in Asia. Secondly, Char Kuey Teow is my home comfort from Malaysia and can’t wait to try and make it!!
    I’ll definitely be back very soon!


  2. Shan says:

    Thank you ! CKT from home -tried it and LOVED it.

  3. jaccobs says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I have tried making CKT at home a few times. It comes out pretty OK but still missing something, like you say, the wok hei. Did you cook this at home? I think that it’s not possible to cook as delicious as the hawker stalls because of this missing wok hei. How do you compensate for this? What kind of wok do you use? I guess you use gas stove instead of electric? Just wondering. Thanks for sharing! Love your blog!

    • Well, I heat up my wok until it’s smoking hot and yes, I use gas stove.

      • Christina Kwok says:

        Hi Bee,

        thanx so much for this recipe, going to try it out, live in Switzerland and nostalgic too for all sorts of hawker noodle dishes. U’re right about it being as good as if not better than Padthai noodles. Any idea why Malaysian food isn’t as popular or well known around the world as Thai food? What are we missing in our marketing? If I could choose Malaysian, I wouldn’t go for Thai anytime.

    • z says:

      you’ll probably need a cast iron wok to retain the heat, especially when using electric stoves.

      • Chris says:

        Thumbs up for this recipe – one of my make at home favorites on our cast iron wok – thanks so much for this insight. It will always be difficult to get the hawker/ restaurant wok hei unless one is kitted out with the high pressure burner – though you can still get good results at home but it has to be gas on full blast. A conventional home gas burner does about 3000 BTU (heat units) some not even that. Looking at the hawker setups they probably do 20,000-40,000 BTU and I know Restaraunt burners do 60,000-90,000 BTU and higher – what a gas bill. We have a Rambo burner ($240) that does 20,000 BTU but we cook outside.

  4. Mnie says:

    ive watched how the made it hawker style in penang..exactly like yours..
    and i believe urs tasted the same :)
    man now im hungry!!!!

    char kuey teow penang style is the best!! and correct, i wonder y they’re not famous like pad thai..

    now i want char kuey teow..hope i can somehow try it here in germany…first need to find the ingredients!!

  5. Dorothy says:

    Finally I got my Chow Kuey Teow right by following your receipe,thankyou. To John who wants to know how to soften the flat noodles. I put it in the microwave oven for two minutes to soften it. I usually buy a couple of flat noodles and leave them in my fridge for a week and they come out good after warming in the microwave oven.
    By the way, I do not receive your receipes anymore. I look forward to your new receipes because they are so good! I am ready to cook something for Chinese New Year from your receipes. A very Happy and Healthy Chinese New Year to you and your crew.

    • lieya says:

      Our microwave is busted so i left the chilled noodles on top of our car hood for 30minutes or so in the afternoon. Works for me. Made this today but i adjusted the soy sauce mixture to double of every measure except the soy sauce

  6. Su Yee says:

    Wah RM!… HOU KHENG ah…!!…. Been craving for CKT, now this post makes me crave for it even more…… :p Have to go find flat noodles and try some wok hei.. just hoping that I will the trigger the smoke alarm.. mISS Penang food so bad.. Thank you so much !!!!!!

  7. Su Yee says:

    *Correction* I will NOT trigger the alarm… sorry..

  8. Pak says:

    this title caught my attention. Cha Kuey Teow which means fried noodles in Teochew hehe

  9. Renatta says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I’m a big fan of RasaMalaysia website. I’m an Indonesian but I grew up in Singapore and CharKueyTeow is definitely one of my fave dishes. Now I can try and cook this at home.

  10. Grace says:

    Thank you very much for this char kwey teow recipe. I have tried many versions, but for me, this one beats them all. The method is so uncomplicated. Prepared it for lunch yesterday….it was a success.

  11. Grace says:

    It’s one of the best Malaysian favorites to introduce to our foreign friends

  12. aza says:

    wow,uniknya malaysia!!!

  13. hanis says:

    looks so good! was just wondering…for the soy sauce, is it kicap pekat or can i use the usual kicap manis/masin…eg. kicap cap habhal type? can’t wait to try it out!

  14. AYSHA says:

    Hi, I love to eat Char Kuey Teow and I really want to have a go at your recipe. I have a few questions regarding some of the ingredients: is it Malaysian soy sauce/dark soy sauce? I don’t think I’ve come across it in london…can I use indonesian kecap manis instead or is that the same thing? Thanks!

  15. AYSHA says:

    Hi, me again! I went looking for malaysian dark soy sauce but was unable to find it so will use kecap manis instead – would you suggest to adjust any of the other flavourings to make it less sweeter and more smokier? This recipe also requires soy sauce – is that regular (chinese?) soy sauce? Thanks!

  16. Amelia Chee says:

    Cooked it according to your steps, what can I say? It’s delicious! Technique is indeed the key, thank you, Bee for sharing. To those of you who haven’t try it, this is very worth trying and you won’t be disappointed for sure!

  17. Jacelyn says:

    i saw somewhere on a cooking show before that restaurants pan fry the kuey teow with some oil to brown it slightly before frying it. This supposedly adds more flavor to it. But i think it was a recipe for “wat tan hor”. Can that be applied to char kuey teow as well? I tried pan frying the kuey teow and the kuey teow stuck together into clumps.

  18. Shirley says:

    Street food is the yummiest, not to mention a great way to experience a country’s culture. I wish I had a wok to try out this recipe!

  19. kslee says:

    hiya, i wonder if you could please tell me how to make the chili paste pls? thank you in advanced!!!

  20. Beth says:

    Hi Bee
    Love your recipes. A big Thank you from Australia.
    Our whole family LOVES Char Kwey Teow so it is terrific to finally see your recipe. Thanks.
    Do you or any readers have tips for a good Malaysian restaurant in the northern LA area? My husband visits there a few times a year and has yet to locate one. He’s missing his Laksa and CKT. :-)
    Thanks again

  21. Rosa says:

    That is one marvelous dish! So flavorful and beautiful. A combination of ingredients that is impossible to resist.



  22. Good point about why isn’t char koay teow as popular as pad thai. I’m surprised people know more about Thai food than Malaysian food since Malaya was a British colony, so the West was more exposed to Malaysian culture than Thai. I guess since Thailand tourism exploded in the last 20 years is probably the reason Thai food is more well known now.

    But it’s hard to replicate the char koay teow in Penang. Just ask Singapore…

  23. ping says:

    I have been following your recipes they work wonderfully. It would be great if the number of serving is provided.

  24. Ty says:

    I have searched everywhere for “the perfect” way to make Char Kway Teow, and this turned out perfectly. I’ve tried to make Char Kway Teow, like 15 times before and they turned out horribly. Following this recipe made a most amazing home cooked Char Kway Teow.

    After cooking it several times I began experimenting with non traditional additions. Being portugeuse I introduced some finely chopped linguica and that added a very interesting kick. Thank so much for sharing this recipe!

  25. freida.zain says:

    u tear me … i want to cry looking at all this delicious food .. im in far far away land … sob sob

  26. Yvonne says:

    hello there

    I am just wondering what sort of wok do you use?


  27. Adam says:

    I dont know how to thank you for that amazing recipes , love you all my heart, i beg you for one more thing if you know of corse ,some penang fried rice recipes, thank you again

    European addicted to asian food, good food and that here is definitely good

  28. Myriam says:

    Hi Bee and first thanksfor your super-duper website I just found.
    Having studied at Penang (USM) for semester, me and my morrocan flatmate fell totally in love with Char Keow Teow ! I think we ate that every 2 days minimum! Of course I generally love the food in Malaysia, the Char Keow Teow remains my all time favorite.
    Saddly, there’s 1 malay restaurant in PAris, that doesn’t do my favorite stuff, and the Char Keow Teow in particular.

    I tried to cook it a couple of times but it never tastes right. Just ok, but never close to the real thing.

    I’ll practice with your recipe, and will go on dreaming about Malaysian Food ! (I miss Malaysia sooo much…)


  29. Eve says:

    I love this receipe. Its so easy and most important its so yummy. My kids love it. I am so glad that this receipe has been shared with us. Thanks. A few query indeed. Why sweet dark sauce is not used in this receipe instead its using sugar? Aside, Do I have to maintain high heat on wok throughout the cooking or I can reduce heat once Kuay Teow is in the wok. I would also like to know how many portion is this quantity of 1lb kuay Teow cater for.

  30. Eddie Hoos says:

    I have only tried to make Char Kuey Teow once and it was disasterous! lol I had it in a restaurant in San Francisco but it seemed different than your recipe. But my question is: is dark soy the same as kecap manis or do I need something different? Thanks. I am determined to learn as much as I can about Malaysian cooking as I can and want to make this again. Thanks

  31. The best CKT I had in Penang street stall was inside some warehouse in Betu Ferringhi in some back street. Do you know it Bee? Another secret the stall shared with us is to make only one portion at a time. It was a mighty long wait cause there were 7 of us but so worth it. Now, we can cook it with your recipe, yay, thx. Glad you mentioned hot wok, my mom would have hers screaming hot with quite a lot of oil. I’ve not made this, kinda intimidating but I’m going to try this.

  32. Leena says:

    Hi Bee,

    I wash the kuey theow, and it sticks. Shoud I not wash it? Otherwise the char kuey theow tastes good. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  33. Gillian says:

    AFter reading Grace Yong’s books about Breath of the Wok and Stir-frying to the Sky’s edge, I tried her special wok seasoning makeover technique five times and finally got ‘wok hei’ in jsut about everything cooked in my wok. I think what’s great is everyone can achieve ‘wok-hei’ cooking at home.

  34. Norris says:

    Hi, Nice recipe. I first tasted Char Kueh Teow in Singapore hawker stalls. Couldn’t get enough of it but have also had a number of variations. Some with beef and green capsicum, some with chicken and prawn. All different but still very tasty.
    I have also been cooking CKT at home since I was taught it by a hawker stall owner in Penang following the Commonwealth games in KL in ’98, and I find it curious that the order they cooked it, and which I follow is not the same as yours, although you say it is important.
    The spices and garlic were first in the wok, then the prawns and other fishy things (like cockles or squid tubes) and chinese sausage then the noodles, and then the egg and kecap manis. Yes, KM was used in the recipe and yes, it made it sweet, but I quite like that).The sprouts were always added last, and I use the tops of spring onions as the green instead of chives. Just a different flavour but they all taste wonderful in my opinion.

    • I am not sure about your order but cockles are never added at the beginning of the cooking as they will be way overcooked. There are no spices used other than the chili paste which is towards the end. Penang version of CKT doesn’t use kecap manis as it’s not supposed to taste sweet. Some hawkers add the bean sprouts towards the end but if you have great wok skills, the bean sprouts would not be overcooked even though it’s added at the beginning.

  35. Joyce says:

    Thanks for this recipe! Being an oversea student, I’ve never thought I’ll be able to eat this out of Malaysia let alone cooking it by myself! Though I didn’t manage to get Chinese sausages or cockles, it still tastes nice with bean sprout, eggs and prawns! Love it!

  36. PaulieG says:

    Looks good, I’ve tried other recipes with success but I’m going to give yours a go tonight.I lived in Penang (Butterworth to be precise) for 2 years and fell in love with the tucker. Unfortunately even in Aus to get anything authentic Malaysian you more often than not need to make it yourself. Have you tried it with fried belachan in the paste?

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  38. Mei Su says:

    OMG.. I love your website a lot, the instructions are very clear, thank you so much for sharing this recipe and other mouth watering recipes

  39. Gwai Lo says:

    The best Char Kway Teow comes from goggle man on Lorong Selamat.

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  41. Excellent recipe. Thank You for sharing. The dish came out really good. This is one of my favorite dishes.
    I used some local squid instead of the cockles.

  42. Michelle says:

    Made this for dinner! My boyfriend and I both think it tastes really close to what we have back home! It’s even better than Chinese restaurant ones! Thanks for this :) it tastes like home, just that it’s in London!

  43. Nina says:

    I reside in Sydney and a restaurant chain here serves PAD THAI on their menu. The only problem is, their so-called PAD THAI is obviously CHAR KUEY TEOW and NOT PAD THAT! (I guess they did this switch because it’a a lot easier for Aussies to pronounce pad thai over char kwey teow. Lol) They are clearly miseducating the Aussies, but admittedly, they do make a very yummy and close to authentic char kwey teow. It even has that distinct wok hei flavor. :D

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  47. Elise says:

    Char Kway Teow is one of my all time favorites. Exactly how long does it take to cook it? I’m kind of a beginner when it comes to dishes like these, so…

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  49. Selvi says:

    Hai thanks for your receipe.can i use hard anodised wok and also soy sause means light soya sause?

  50. Sy says:

    Can we substitute the dark soy with thick dark soy (caramel)? I bought a bottle back from Malaysia. How would I adjust the recipe using thick dark soy? I assume the Chinese brand thick dark soy is different than the kecap manis which is more sweeter.

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