my favorite malaysian dish on this good earth is the spicy, fatty, eggy deliciousness known as char koay teow. when i first visited, i was eating plates of these dark, savory noodles twice a day at least. while in penang, i was fortunate enough to take a class from the woman herself, master of malaysian cuisine pearly kee, where she taught me to make a proper plate using an impressive array of ingredients from her garden.

i've been trying to replicate it at home ever since, and my latest iteration is the closest i've gotten so i thought it was time to share. big caveat here that i have no idea where to find blood cockles in the bay area, so this recipe does omit them, but i think it's still a tasty representation in a time where it's unclear when we'll ever get to go back.

a hot tip - it's difficult to find red chiles most of the year, so consider buying them in bulk in the summertime and making a bunch of sauce to freeze for the rest of the year. you can make this with green chiles, but the flavor isn't quite right.

finally, the hardest ingredient to find in this recipe is probably the dark caramel sauce. having scoured every chinese market in SF, we finally found it at the 99 ranch in richmond. or you can find it online. a lot of sites claim that kicap manis is a decent substitute, but it really isn't. idk. use what you can find.


homestyle char koay teow

char koay teow
adapted from pearly kee
serves 2

ingredients
[sauce]
4 red chiles (anaheim, serrano, etc. NOT thai bird's eye)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dark caramel sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp light soy sauce

[assembly]
300 g flat rice noodle (ideally fresh)
1 link lap cheong (chinese sausage), thinly sliced at a bias
8 medium prawns, shells removed
1/2 cup bean sprouts
4 chinese chives, cut to 3 cm lengths (scallions will do in a pinch)
Lard
2 eggs (chicken or duck)
50 g blood cockles, shells removed (if you can find them please tell me where)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped

instructions
blend all sauce ingredients to a paste and set aside.
prep all ingredients and mise en place, divided - this is for two servings and you'll do one serving at a time. can't stress the important of mise en place in wok cooking.
add about 1 tbsp of lard to the wok and heat on high heat until smoking
add chopped garlic, sausage, and prawns. stir fry vigorously with a metal spatula while counting to 10, then lower heat. [note: if you don't have a high output burner, 10 seconds might not be enough. you want the garlic lightly browned but not burnt)
add rice noodle and sauce. use the corner of the spatula to loosen the noodles and mix around. count to 10, or until the noodles are softened and coated in sauce.
push noodles and prawns to the side of the wok. add a little more lard if necessary, then crack 1 egg into the center of the wok. count to 10 to let the egg white harden, then scramble and combine with noodles.
push all the noodles and egg into a pile in the middle and put cockles (if using), bean sprouts and chives on top, then flip over the entire mixture so that they are cooking underneath the noodles. count to 10 and then stir fry until it looks done. careful not to burn!
serve immediately with a dash of white pepper. repeat with the second half of ingredients.