Char kway teow
|Char kway teow|
|Literal meaning||stir-fry ricecake strips (i.e. stir-fried ricecake strips)|
|Alternative name in
|Literal meaning||no literal meaning
Char kway teow, literally "stir-fried ricecake strips", is a popular noodle dish in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia,and Singapore. The dish was (and still is in some places in Malaysia), especially in Singapore, can be best enjoyed at Hawker Centers and food courts. It is one of the favorite national dishes in Singapore.
It is made from flat rice noodles (河粉 hé fěn in Chinese) of approximately 1 cm or (in the north of Malaysia) about 0.5 cm in width, stir-fried over very high heat with light and dark soy sauce, chilli, a small quantity of belachan, whole prawns, deshelled cockles, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives. The dish is commonly stir-fried with egg, slices of Chinese sausage and fishcake, and less commonly with other ingredients. Char kway teow is traditionally stir-fried in pork fat, with crisp croutons of pork lard, and commonly served on a piece of banana leaf on a plate.
Char kway teow has a reputation of being unhealthy due to its high saturated fat content. However, when the dish was first invented, it was mainly served to labourers. The high fat content and low cost of the dish made it attractive to these people as it was a cheap source of energy and nutrients. When the dish was first served, it was often sold by fishermen, farmers and cockle-gatherers who doubled as char kway teow hawkers in the evening to supplement their income.
The term "char kway teow" is a transliteration of the Chinese characters 炒粿條, pronounced chhá-kóe-tiâu? in Min Nan (also known as Hokkien). The word kóe-tiâu (literally meaning "ricecake strips") generally refers to flat rice noodles, which are the usual ingredient in West Malaysia and Singapore. In East Malaysia, on the other hand, actual sliced ricecake strips are used to make this dish.
In popular transliterations, there is no fixed way of spelling chhá-kóe-tiâu, and many variants can be found: e.g., "char kueh teow", "char kueh tiao", etc.
Owing to the dish's popularity and spread to Cantonese-speaking areas, the term "char kway teow" has been corrupted into "炒貴刁" in Cantonese. This is pronounced as caau2 gwai3 diu1? in Cantonese and cháo guìdiāo ? in Mandarin. The term "貴刁" has no real meaning, but its pronunciation in Cantonese and Mandarin is similar to "粿條" in Min Nan.
In Hong Kong, "char kway teow" is often known as "Penang char kway teow" (炒粿條), indicating the dish's origins.
As the dish has become increasingly popular, many cooks have come up with their own interpretations of the same basic main ingredient of ricecake strips/flat rice noodles fried with anything from eggs (chicken or duck), onions, garlic, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage, chives, etc.
Of all the notable versions, the Penang style of char kway teow is the most famous. Its popularity leads many char koay teow sellers outside Penang to call their products "Penang char koay teow" in order to attract customers.
In the past it was usual to stir-fry char kway teow in pork fat without eggs (which were, however, available on request). More recently, ordinary cooking oil is commonly used for health or religious reasons, and eggs have become a standard ingredient in the dish.
In other parts of Malaysia, such as Miri in East Malaysia, additional ingredients may include beef, onions, sweet soya sauce, etc.
Versions of char koay teow prepared by Muslims in Malaysia will exclude pork fat and may include extra soy sauces and spices and the use of broader-width flat rice noodles. There are also vegetarian varieties that may or may not include eggs.
There are also "gourmet" versions of char kway teow, commonly found in Ipoh and Penang, where the dish may be prepared with more seafood, with crab meat and with duck eggs.
In Indonesia, the dish is known as Kwetiau Goreng (Indonesian: fried flat rice noodles) and is served in Chinese restaurants and by traveling street hawkers. The Indonesian version is less oily, uses no lard, and normally incorporates beef or chicken to cater to the majority Muslim population. However, some Chinese restaurants in Indonesia that serve non-Muslim customers do use pork and pork fat.
Char kway teow is also popular at takeaways in Australia and New Zealand, where it may appear on the menu as 'Kwai Due' or some variant spelling thereof.
In Myanmar, a variety called the Beik Kut kyae kaik (the Beik Scissor Cut) exists. It is popular in the southern coastal regions around the town of Myeik ("Baik" is the Burmese pronunciation) and in Yangon, the largest city in the country. It uses more pepper and seafood compared to the kway teow of Singapore and Malaysia. The rice noodles are slightly thinner and are stir-fried with boiled yellow peas, bean sprouts, squid and prawns, spring onions and dark sweet soy sauce. After being stir-fried, the noodles are cut with scissors (kut kyae in Burmese), thus its name. In many Asian fusion restaurants in America, such as the popular Cafe Asia chain, this dish is offered under the name Gway Tiao.
Many Southeast Asian restaurants in Hong Kong offer char kway teow as a Malay specialty although it is of Southeast Asian Chinese origin. The char kway teow served in Hong Kong is an entirely different dish: stir-fried Chinese-style flat rice noodles with prawns, char siu, onions, and bean sprouts, seasoned with curry and bright yellow in colour. In some places this is known as Fried "Good Dale", a transliteration of the characters "炒貴刁".
In Singapore, char kway teow has evolved into a healthier version with more vegetables and less oil. Furthermore, the greens and bean sprouts gives off a fresh, crunchy texture that makes the dish taste even more unique from other dishes of the cuisine.
See also 
- "Char Kway Teow – Penang – Sister". sigmatestudio.com. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- 'Fried Good Dale: A Translation Run Amok'
- YourSingapore.com - Char Kway Teow
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