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Penang Char Hor Fun Recipe (炒河粉)

Penang Char Ho Fun (炒河粉)
Penang Char Ho Fun (炒河粉) pictures (4 of 9)

There is a saying or myth in Penang about Char Hor Fun (炒河粉)–one that is only Penang’s I am sure–if you are a bachelor and would like to win the heart of your girlfriend, you would seek out the best Char Hor Fun in town and make sure you take your girlfriend there, if possible, frequently. And if you wanted to win the hearts of your future parents-in-laws, you would be smart enough to “ta pau” (take out) for them, too.

When I was little, my sisters’ boyfriends (now my brothers-in-law) would religiously pack Char Hor Fun for my parents. Being the youngest in the family, my parents would share the “bribe” with me, and that was how I started my love affair with this delicacy…

Char Hor Fun is traditionally Chinese, but there are many variations to this ubiquitous dish. When I was attending college in Kuala Lumpur (KL), I found out that the dish is called “Wat Tan Hor” there. The concept of the dish is the same, but it has a slightly different presentation and eggs are used in the gravy, hence the words “wat tan” which literally means “smooth eggs” in Cantonese…

In Thai cuisine, there is a similar dish called Rad Na and I believe Vietnamese have their own adaptation. The ingredients and toppings might be different but they are all delicious. Call me biased, but the best ones in my opinion is still Penang Char Hor Fun.

If you are a bachelor, perhaps you might want to try my recipe and make this dish for your girlfriend. And while you are at it, make some extras for your future parents-in-law, too.

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67 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. bayi

    Wow…I was certainly fascinated by the romantic touch behind char hor fun. I have yet to try this Penang dish though wat tan hor is pretty readily available to us KL folks. But I must say that it looks more delicious than the usual wat tan hor! Even getting a good wat tan hor in KL these days is a rarity! I wonder if anyone knows where in KL I can get to try this Penang version of char hor fun.

  2. Oh for the love of food!

    HA!HA! Love your story, RM, My parents had a good share of Take Away ‘Wat tan Hor’ when my sisters and I were dating.
    I LLLLLLLOVE the look of your Penang Char Hor Fun and the Mai Fun too. Wish I could have some for supper!
    BTW, the Udang recipe you wanted is on my blog. Try it and tell me what you think ;o)

  3. Andreea

    i definitly have to drop by more often. great source of inspiration and so much about a cuisine i don’t know much about.


    I always make the mistake of reading your blog when I am hungy. Hmmm…maybe it’s reading your that MAKES me hungry! :-P

  5. tigerfish

    That’s a very authentic hor fun. Once again, a simple dish yet came out so glorious in the hands of Rasa Malaysia. :D
    I prefer my hor fun with preserved green chili.

    From a gal’s point of view, now I’m starting to think why I like hor fun and wat tan hor so much.

  6. Keropok Man

    Hor Fun is one of my favourite dishes!

    Since young, it’s one of the most tapow dishes in our home.

    The best ones have a hint of ‘charred’ kuey teow smell. Oooo… it smells so so good!

  7. C2

    I was just thinking that it was a while since I had Hor fun and having the recipe wasn’t such a bad idea. Used to have it with Siew Yuk..yum! You must be a mind reader!!Great photos from China esp the people photos.

  8. lecram sinun

    Totally loving your blog… from a (long time cali resident) originally from Malaysia. A great resource too for a taste of home. Cheers!

  9. Rasa Malaysia

    Melting – Penang Char Hor Fun do not have eggs in the gravy, which makes it lighter. Next time you try okay? ;)

    Bayi – I used to live in KL and I didn’t have any decent Wat Tan Hor. The one near my college was plain bad. :P

    For the love of food – LOL. Your parents are lucky to have a lot of char hor fun! Thanks for the udang recipe.

    Andreea – thanks for your comment and welcome to RM. I am glad that you find Malaysian food a great inspiration.

    Tiga – I hear you. I love preserved green chile too but do not have them at home so have to make do with sambal belacan haha. I think it’s a Penang thing, char hor fun goes well with sambal belacan. ;)

    Keropok – I agree. Char Hor Fun is a good tapau. I guess the portion is always big so a few people can share it.

    C2 – lol, hungry minds think alike? Thanks for your kind words about my China pictures.

    Lecram Sinun – thanks for your comment. A fellow Malaysian, yes, do pop in more and leave me a comment or two. :)

  10. sc

    aawww, the char hor fun story is so sweet..never heard of it before :). your hor fun and mai fan looks great! i want a plate of that!

  11. WokandSpoon

    Hello! Thanks for dropping by my blog! I’m glad you did bec. you’re my new foodie Goddess! hehe! The char hor fun looks incredible!

  12. "Joe" who is constantly craving

    hmmm i didnt know theres a difference..looks drier then the kl version..but pity i cant seem to see any hor fun at me drooling once again..

  13. Nate 2.0

    Great, I’ll have to make this for Annie soon. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you stop the romance, right?

  14. Ming_the_Merciless

    My mom usually make this but with fried egg (wanton) noodles. They are so delicious, especially when the noodles have soaked up the delicious gravy.

    I love your photos. I also voted you for the Best Cooking Blog.

  15. babe_kl

    so the Penang version doesn’t have eggs? i love the egg swirls in KL’s wat tarn hor though. btw in parents’ age, should they get daughters, their friends will tease if they have any chow fun (fried noodles) to eat or not haha…

  16. Tummythoz

    A suggestion. Should put such facts/stories in when you publish your recipebook. It’ll b so interesting & nostalgic.
    Everybody else, I can vouch for the truth in this story. I’m a product from such courtship!

  17. Rasa Malaysia

    Teckiee – chili is what makes this char hor fun from good to great!

    SC – yeah as said, this myth is probably for Penang only.

    Wokandspoon – haha, I found your blog through one of the sites, and one click to another…thanks so much for your comment.

    Joe – Penang Char Hor Fun is usually not that wet, I mean, with just the right amount of gravy. :)

    Steamy – yeah, you are Cantonese right, gotta love Hor Fun!

    Aria – LOL! Good to know that you are bribe-able. ;)

    WMW – you can try, maybe it works in SS2 too. LOL!

    Nate 2.0 – right on. Annie will be happy.

    Ming – yeah, dried egg noodles work too. Thanks for voting for me, I voted for you too.

    Babe – Penang’s version usually don’t have eggs. I do not mind the egg swirls but some KL ones are too loaded with eggs though.

    Unka – yes, I like my char hor fun with sambal belacan. Like the pickled green chiles too but do not have them at home. :P

    Tummy – thanks for your suggestion. Char Hor Fun really works the romance wonders!

  18. Claude-Olivier


    How are you ? Fine I hope, but then I see your blog, it seems that you’re ok ;-) Another great dish, perfectyl presented ! One more technical question: Do you use day light or artificial light ? The contrast and the white balance are really good and I know that it is not always easy to have such a good illumination.

    Have a very nice day !!!

  19. Rosa's Yummy Yums

    That dish look extremely appetizing! It contains everything I love…
    As usual, your pictures are stunning!

  20. Hengster

    whoever your hubby/ bf is…he is going to end up fat hanging out with you. Everything so yummy! And you cook marvelous food!

  21. Oppss

    haha…when i was young, i’ve heard my dad making jokes between the char hor fun and the son-in-law. i thought he was just making up the stories, didnt know it’s real until i read ur article… lol.

  22. Tsu Lin

    I decided to try out your recipe last night and must commend you – It’s simply LOVELY!

    In KL, I can never really tell the diff between “Wak Tan Hor” or “CHar Hor Fun” but we also call it “Hokkien Noodles”. Either way, I love them both! Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe.

  23. Ginger

    Hi! This dish looks delish! What is
    kecap manis and can I find it at my Asian market (in Michigan)? If not, is there something I could substitute?

  24. Rasa Malaysia

    Claude – Hehe, all natural light, no artificial light.

    Rosa – yes, this dish is appetizing. :)

    Hengster – thank you thank you. :)

    Budding Cook – you can just do plain flat rice noodles…it’s easier that way.

    Oppss – it’s real!

    Eatdrinknbmerry – yes, rad nar is good, but a little too sweet for my taste. Rad Nar uses fermented yellow beans in the sauce.

    Tsu Lin – wow, you tried the recipe? That’s great. I am glad you liked it.

    Ginger – yes, you should be able to find kecap manis in Asian store, it means sweet soy sauce and the brand is ABC. If you can’t find it, then just use Chinese dark soy sauce.

    Amy – cool, I look forward to see your creation. :)

  25. Elena

    I am definitely going to try this recipe soon. If you miss the pickled green chilli, you can try the pickled jalepeno. I think they are almost the same.

  26. Pei_Lu

    Hey Love ur blog~!!

    tried the CHF recipe

    OMG so nice hhaha

    first time cooking CHF

    love ur recipes =D

    **eating the CHF now ^^

  27. Anonymous

    we grew up in KL but i think dad never got over his penang heritage as he kept harping on about it everything being better from Penang. Including char hor fun. It was almost a sacred ritual as we made our annual pilgrimage up north and paid our respects to ‘tua pui koey teow’ as in fatty’s koey teow in hokkien. I think it was a famous stall in pulau tikus area that sold this. It was fabulous and had less sauce but was so tasty. Do you know it?

  28. Yaro

    I’ve tried this recipe recently. It turned good, but I have a slight problem. When I frying noodles, by the time they become “lightly burned or charred” they also stick to each other. So basically I had one (or two) lump of each type of noodles. Is there anything I might be doing wrong? Thank you for your help!

  29. Sue Leen

    The photo shots are inspiring.

    For this dish, is this equivalent to Thai Lad Na?..may be Penang borrowed it since is very close to the border of Thailand..just wondering, as a matter of transnational aspect of food history

  30. Nic

    Char Hor Fun is also known as R-go R-go char, tiuk boh? BTW, do i fry/charred hor fun together with bee hoon or separately? Thanks :-S

  31. Mei

    I just made it! great recipe! Thanks!!! and I also made the sambal belacan to go with it using your recipe too!! thanks heaps!!! It just satisfied my sudden craving for Penang food! I had to use lime instead of the kalamansi lime coz I couldnt find it in Australia too but it still tasted great! =)

  32. Jo

    I love your site, its so informative and explains so much – many thanks for that.

    I am having the same problem as Yaro. The kuay teow all clumped together, I used the fresh kuay teow here (Aus)…. what is the remedy for this?
    Thanks !

  33. KT

    Your Penang Char Hor Fun brings back many fond memories of my childhood in Penang. Wasn’t it called “tua pan koay teow” – I think translated to mean “wide type” of koay teow to the Penangites. The KL version of Wah Tan Hor (with smaller width of the noodle) somehow does not taste the same – don’t know if it is due to the noodle of some other secret ingredient. I yearn for the Penang version but have not managed to recreate it – I use mainly chicken (white meat) and not pork and I also did not use fish sauce.

    By the way, what is “Bay scallops”? I did not remember if in the koay teow back home.

    And yes, “ta-pau” char hor fun for the prospective in-law seems to be a ritual. I did it too when dating my gf (now wife) so many years back.

  34. Angela

    I am originally from Penang but now living in the US. Thank you so much for this recipe. I just tried the recipe and it turned ou very well. Almost like Penang hawker style :-)

    Thanks again!

  35. Sheyna


    Thanks for the recipe. I am looking forward to trying it. Out of curiosity however, how come you use kecap manis and fish sauce? Both don’t seem like ingredients that Penang hawker users would use…



  36. Teong ONG

    I find it unusual to serve Sar Hor Fun with sambal belacan in Penang. It is traditionally Cantonese and served with green pickled chillies and soya sauce.

  37. Nandu Nayar

    That dish was one of my favorites growing up in Kedah/Penang. Now that I am in USA for the last 30 years, I miss it very much, which is why I visit Nyonya (Little Italy in NYC) restaurant. In any case, I have a question for you…. How come there is no egg in the sauce recipe? I was under the impression that eggs were used in the sauce. Please clarify.

  38. Davidoon

    Oh yes, a dish I miss most from my early years in Penang and Sungai Petani. Haha and you are so right about the myth, that’s what I cooked although with crispy noodle instead of flat noodle, to win my ex-girl friend’s (now my dear wife) heart when we were 18. So long ago… Now want to share this with my 3 boys…

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