Char Kway Teow: The Emperor of Malaysian Noodles

Close-up of fresh char kway teow in plate
Roan Gumangan / EyeEm / Getty Images
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 2 servings

One of the Malaysian noodle dishes that one should not miss trying if visiting Malaysia (especially Penang) or Singapore, or dining at a Malaysian restaurant is char kway teow. This stir fried dish has wide rice noodles, meat (pork or Chinese sausages, or both), seafood (shrimps, squid or cockles) and vegetables (Chinese chives and mung bean sprouts are the most basic) seasoned with soy sauce and belacan, the Malaysian shrimp paste. Modern versions almost always include stirred whole eggs. 

All About the Noodles

The best noodle to use for making char kway teow is called kway teow in Malaysia which is essentially the same as ​shahe fen or he fen (also known as ho fun), the kind used for cooking Chinese beef chow fun, flat rice noodles about three-quarters of an inch wide and a little less than a quarter of an inch thick. They are sold fresh in Asian stores (vacuum-packed, in some cases). I like to drop them in briskly boiling water for a minute and dumping them in iced water before stir-frying. If unable to find fresh rice noodles, dried varieties are available. Follow the package directions for use in stir fries.

This recipe dispenses with the pork lard part. 

Stir frying ALWAYS requires consistently high heat.


  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 shallots (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 1 pinch sugar (generous)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon chili paste
  • 100 grams pork belly (thinly sliced, like bacon; skinless)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 6 to 8 medium-sized shrimp (shelled and deveined)
  • 3 stalks Chinese chives (scallions can be substituted, cut into one-inch lengths)
  • 4 ounces wide rice noodles
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat.

  3. Saute the shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, sugar, and chili paste (if using) until fragrant.

  4. Turn up the heat and add the pork slices. Drizzle ​with a little soy sauce. Stir fry for a minute or just until the pork is no longer pink.

  5. Add the shrimps and chives. Continue stir-frying for another minute.

  6. Throw in the rice noodles. Drizzle in more soy sauce. Stir fry until the noodles are heated through.

  7. Lastly, add the bean sprouts and eggs. Stir fry just until the eggs are set and the sprouts are slightly wilted.

  8. Taste and add more soy sauce, if needed.

  9. Divide the char kway teow between two plates or shallow bowls and serve at once.

Recipe Tags: