There is a long list of reasons why the next trip to Indonesia is always highly anticipated. While family is always the number one reason, char kway teow is pretty high up on that list.
Originally a Southern Chinese dish, there are many char kway teow versions, namely the Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai (called ‘pad see ew’) versions. They are all pretty much the same except for a few variations. For example, the Singaporean char kway teow has cockles, giving it a distinctive taste that you will not find in other versions.
The version that we love the most is the Chinese Indo char kway teow, especially the one from a local market stall that my whole family have gone to since eons ago. The vendor knows her regular customers by name and order requests. She cooks with an old-school charcoal stove and a giant wok which is beyond well-seasoned. Her version is quite unique even in my hometown. Her version has translucent rice noodles made from rice and tapioca flours, thin slices of pork, pork liver, fresh prawns, fish balls, lap cheong, choy sum, bean shoots and a generous amount of kecap manis, soy sauce and white pepper.
For years I have been too intimidated to try cooking char kway teow. I feel that I would not attain that wok-breath-infused char kway teow that I love so much. Homesickness got rid of this fear. My recipe and cooking methods are quite different from my favourite local market version because I do not have a big wok and my stove is quite sluggish. The result was fairly decent and pretty close to the Chinese Indo style, though.
While I love char kway teow very much, I cannot eat it daily, at least not with all the bells and whistles. It is a sometimes food. It is not all bad news though. It simply means that I will just have to blog about ‘yin’-er methods of serving kway teow (rice noodle), i.e. more delicious kway teow on the menu….!
Char Kway Teow
Slice 1 lap cheong (Chinese pork sausage) at an angle into thin pieces. Slice 100g/3.5 oz fish ball thinly. Chop 2-3 cloves garlic finely. Slice 3 small chillies thinly. Chop 1 head broccoli into small florets and stems. Trim and snap 1 bunch choy sum into bite-size pieces. Wash and drain the broccoli and choy sum. Wash and drain ½ pack/±250g/9 0z mung bean shoots.
Heat ½ tablespoon of canola oil over medium/high heat in a large pan. Add the lap cheong and fish ball. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium/high heat. Add half of the chopped garlic. Stir until the garlic is about to turn brown. Add the broccoli, choy sum and a splash of water. Add a pinch of iodised salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes, while stirring constantly. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium/high heat. Add the remaining half of the chopped garlic. Stir until garlic is about to turn brown. Add 500g/1 lb 2 oz fresh rice noodles. Add the lap cheong & fish ball. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian thick sweet soy sauce), 1 tablespoon light soy sauce and 2 pinches white pepper. Mix well. Stir for about 1 minute. Stir in the bean shoots, broccoli and choy sum. Toss to mix. Cook for another minute or so, stirring constantly. Garnish with the chillies. Serve immediately.