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.
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