Hot from the wok: 5 under-the-radar char kuey teow in KL, PJ and Klang

— Picture by Lee Khang Yi
— Picture by Lee Khang Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — When it comes to char kuey teow, one cannot deny that the Penang hawkers rule supreme... whether it’s a famous stall patronised by many or just a neighbourhood place. Nevertheless, for those who live in the Klang Valley, the five stalls here can temporarily stave off the desire to drive up or even fly to Penang every weekend for your char kuey teow fix.

Expect two versions of the fried or “char” flat rice noodles to be found at the stalls. The Penang style is the more popular choice. You’ll recognise its lighter brown tinged noodles flavoured with light soy sauce and sometimes chili paste for a spicy kick. The strands are seperated and fried with ingredients such as cockles, prawns, bean sprouts, egg, Chinese chives and sometimes slivers of Chinese waxed sausages.

The Kuala Lumpur version sports a distinct darker look and sweeter taste contributed by the use of dark soy sauce. Even the type of flat rice noodles used by the hawkers in Penang differ from the ones used in the Klang Valley. Usually the Penang hawkers prefer thinner translucent flat rice noodle strands while the Klang Valley stalls opt for the opaque broader flat rice noodles.

In Penang, char kuey teow prepared with charcoal fire is highly favoured since it offers higher heat and the breath of wok (wok hei) or smoky aromas in the noodles. Most hawkers in the Klang Valley prefer using a gas fire at a high temperature to fry their noodles instead.

Discerning hawkers will fry orders plate by plate to ensure the flavourings are evenly distributed. Some even place it on a banana leaf to enhance its aroma. Fussy eaters prefer their cockles to be served raw on top of the fresh-from-the wok noodles. They would cover the cockles with the hot noodles to lightly cook them to retain its bloodiness. Sadly due to health worries, this is harder and harder to find.

Lorong Selamat Char Kuey Teow
Restoran Yong Sheng, Jalan USJ 14/1L, Subang Jaya
Open: 7.30am to 1.45pm. No fixed off days.

Don’t worry this stall has nothing to do with the infamous obnoxious Lorong Selamat char kuey teow stall in Penang. Their bragging rights is all due to their former address, as the couple who run this stall used to live on that street. Prior to their move to the Klang Valley about eight years ago, the couple used to sell prawn mee. They switched to char kuey teow, a more popular choice. As the wife dons a teddy bear face mask to fry the noodles, the moustached husband will prep the ingredients and serve the char kuey teow. It’s obvious they take a lot of pride and care with each plate of char kuey teow as he’ll meticulously sprinkle the fried noodles with chopped fried lard and a shake of ground white pepper powder before serving you.

Melawis Char Kuey Teow
3, Lintang Gangsa, Off Jalan Melawis, Klang
Open: 11am to 5.30pm. Closed on Sundays

This Klang legend operates out of his own shop that is a hop and skip away from Methodist School. The black-looking noodles score for its smoky aromas due to vigorous frying over the hot fire. However, this also results in broken noodle strands. You’ll forgive the lack of ingredients in your plate of char kuey teow, when you bite into a crispy piece of deep-fried lard hidden within the silky black strands mingling with cockles and bean sprouts.

Frankie Char Kuey Teow
Restoran 8888, Jalan PJU 8/5C, Damansara Perdana
Open: 10am to 4pm. Closed on alternate Sundays.

This sole proprietor is said to be the nephew of famed Ah Leng Char Kuey Teow in Penang. You get a choice of the creamier duck egg or chicken egg to be fried with your noodles. Unlike the usual larger flat rice noodles favoured by other hawkers, this stall uses thinner sar hor fun strands that tend to clump together more. While the noodles lack a smoky aroma, the delicious taste makes up for everything. Ask for an extra fried egg with a still-runny yolk to top your noodles.

Kedai Kopi Yuyi
2, Lorong Brunei 2, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur
Open: 7.30am to 3pm. No fixed off days.

This Kuala Lumpur version comes blanketed with a thin fried omelette that bears a close resemblance to the Japanese omu-rice or omelette rice. Dig underneath the egg for a slightly wetter and sweeter-tasting fried noodles. Even the flat rice noodles is broader and thicker. Expect to find tender pork slices, a rarity in char kuey teow, mingling with bean sprouts and greens in this plate of noodles.

Penang Fried Kuey Teow Stall
Jalan Baiduri, Off Jalan San Peng, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur
Open: 6pm to 12am. Closed on Sundays.

Nightbirds can indulge in a plate of well-fried char kuey teow at this stall adjacent to the famous nasi lemak stall. Compared to other stalls, the char kuey teow here may lack an abundance of ingredients but it’s so well prepared that you’ll relish each strand of the delicious noodles. Excellent frying skills keep the medium-sized cockles lightly cooked with none of the rubbery texture that you find at other stalls. Even the bean sprouts are crunchy. The stall also sells fried rice and dishes like rice wine chicken.

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