Get us in your inbox

Search
Char kway teow
Photograph: Singapore Tourism Board

Makan Spotlight: Char kway teow

A slurp-worthy noodle dish packed with ingredients and slick with wok hei, or smoky flavour

Fabian Loo
Written by
Fabian Loo
Advertising

Char kway teow, which translates to fried rice noodles in Hokkien, is a firm hawker staple in Singapore. To make the dish, a combination of flat rice noodles and thin yellow noodles is used as base, then fried with plenty of lard or oil, and garlic. Common ingredients that include egg, Chinese sausage, fishcake, beansprouts, and cockles are then tossed into the mixture, then coated with sweet soya sauce for flavour. But the most important component of char kway teow lies in the frying pan used; woks are favoured by hawkers to impart plenty of smoky aroma into every greasy mouthful.

And while the dish might have a Hokkien name, char kway teow has its roots in the Teochew community. What began as a simple, everyday dish of rice noodles with lard and soya sauce was embellished over the years with different mix-ins. Duck egg was first used by hawkers in the 1950s, but it quickly fell out of favour with the availability of a cheaper alternative: chicken egg.

Cockles, or ‘hum’ in local dialect, is another common addition. But its presence in char kway teow is a divisive one. Some enjoy the briny taste that the bivalves (a cheaper alternative to oysters) add, but often, cockles are only added towards the end to prevent them from overcooking, and consuming raw or partially cooked shellfish can pose health risk such as Hepatitis A.

These days, given the falling supply of cockles, many have replaced the shellfish with options of Chinese sausage, fishcake, prawn, and other novel protein options instead. Below is a snapshot of some of the best places to go for char kway teow – both classic and jazzed-up.

RECOMMENDED Makan Spotlight: Thosai

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Chinatown

Bib Gourmand-listed Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee is a hot local favourite. Queues form early at its location within Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, with eager diners hoping to get a taste of the stall’s signature wok-fried noodles (from $4). The owners have been keeping the stoves warm for over two decades, and even fries their own pork lard to add into the cooking process.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Kallang

Most plates of the dish might come greasy and oily, but 91 Fried Kway Teow Mee makes it slightly less unhealthy with the addition of greens. A plate of noodles (from $4) will come covered with a generous handful of chye sim, and a spoonful of fried whitebait. The stall also replaces the usual lard with vegetable oil instead to create a healthier variant that still comes packing with flavour, as evidenced by the snaking queues.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Raffles Place

The star item at this stall comes proudly announced on the signboard: Fried Kway Teow. Located at the corner of Amoy Street Food Centre (the very first stall, so its hard to miss), an elderly couple take turns serving up a sloppy rendition of char kway tiao (from $4). Egg and slices of fishcake are tucked within a jumble of noodles (from $4), and the version here comes slightly wetter which makes it perfect for slurping.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Sengkang

The key to a good plate of char kway teow is the lard. At this humble stall in Anchorvale Link, you'll find the char kway teow which was popular way back when it opened in 1949 as a streetside stall in Armenian Street. It might have had a couple of changes in address but the recipe is still based on the classic well-loved by many. Get ready to wait a little more for your food and to queue at peak times – this is one of Sengkang's food gems after all. 

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Bedok

You know it’s gotta be good if a line forms for this calorie-laden dish every day – even if posters by the Health Promotion Board around it exhort people to eat a little cleaner. Hill Street’s char kway teow (from $3.50) is neither too dry nor wet, with just the right amount of wok hei – those brown bits are actually charred and not dark soya sauce. The dish is also loaded with other ingredients like beansprouts, spring onions, Chinese sausage, cockles, and an egg stirred in, giving you a bite of something with every mouthful. 

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Singaporean
  • Tanglin

Here, the dark, glistening sticky tangle of flat rice noodles is fried vigorously in lard, black sauce, and lashings of chilli sauce before generous servings of egg, cockles, lap cheong or Chinese dried sausage, fishcake, and bean sprouts are added.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Jurong West

There are some regional variations in char kway teow, and the rendition from Penang is one of the most popular. Taste-wise, Penang char kway teow is often billed as a lighter alternative; less sweet, and not as heavily flavoured. The rice noodle used is often thinner, too. You can find this variant inside the Malaysian Boleh food court, at Yong Kee Char Kuay Tiao, where rice noodles come tossed with prawns, eggs, and a special homemade chilli paste. 

Advertising
  • Bars and pubs
  • Chinatown

Local fare is transformed at Jekyll and Hyde. Here, char kway teow is beefed up with slices of wagyu ($25), and tossed with slices of king oyster mushrooms for a satisfying bite. And if you’re taking it away or having the dish delivered, Jekyll and Hyde will wrap up the noodles in opeh leaf which imparts a pleasant, woody fragrance.

More hawker grub

Advertising
Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising