GEORGE TOWN, Oct 19 — It’s a simple enough dish of yellow noodles, vermicelli, slices of meat, shrimps and some choy sum but the Hokkien Char (Hokkien fried noodles) is something in a class of its own; comforting without being too rich or filling.
Not to be confused with the Penang Hokkien Mee, this is almost like a non-spicy version but just as tasty and does not have a strong shrimp taste to it.
The Penang Hokkien Mee is a spicy, strong shrimp-flavoured dish where its thick spicy soup base consisted mainly of boiling shrimp shells but for the Hokkien Char, it is much simpler and easier to prepare.
There is not much earlier preparation needed for the Hokkien char. As its name suggests, it is simply fried noodles, Hokkien style.
A plate of satisfying Hokkien char means thin slices of pork (or sometimes chicken), shelled shrimps and Chinese mustard greens stir fried with yellow noodles and vermicelli.
What’s so special about the fried noodles is that the noodles are often served soaked in thick tasty gravy that has just a hint of the prawns and pork flavours.
This makes it neither a soupy concoction nor dry fried noodles as the gravy is just enough to cover the plate, making slurping up the noodles a “smooth” experience.
The sauce is mostly a mixture of light soya sauce and dark soya sauce but its main flavours are derived from stir-frying the other ingredients first.
This dish should not be confused with the KL Hokkien fried noodles as it tastes vastly different, using different type of noodles. In fact, it even looks different.
The KL version uses thick fat noodles and is often very dark in colour due to the use of more dark soya sauce while the Penang Hokkien style uses just a tinge of the dark soya sauce resulting in a light brown dish.
The mark of a really good plate of Hokkien char is in how the hawker first prepares the noodles before frying — these have to be the perfect consistency, not too soft or too hard — and of course in the frying style that has to blend all the flavours of its ingredients and sauces together to present a hot plate of gravy-filled noodles.
Finally, a plate of Hokkien char is never complete if it is not accompanied with a dollop of aromatic, spicy sambal.
We are not talking any kind of sambal but the pungent and spicy type made from grinding chillies and belacan into a smooth paste.
There are no specific hawker stalls selling just Hokkien char but it is often one of the noodles sold by Char Hor Fun (fried noodles) sellers in Penang.
Here are some of the stalls you can try out in Penang:
New Cathay Café, Burma Road
Padang Kota Lama Food Court, Lebuh Light
Goodall Café, Gottlieb Road
Pisa Corner Café, Jalan Tun Dr Awang
Free School Food Court, Jalan Terengganu