The Great Penang Char Kway Teow Debate

Every time the topic of Penang’s most famous dish comes up, I get a whole host of conjectures about what makes a good CKTcharcoal fire, wok breath, indispensable ingredients like pork fat, pork crisps, Chinese sausage – the list goes on.

Awhile back I posted a video of a chef IN Penang cooking Penang Char Kway Teow –

– and it created a mini firestorm with comments claiming it wasn’t authentic because the ingredients weren’t cooked in the correct order.

I like when these self-appointed food experts and critics get worked up about the details when they, unlike the gentleman in the video, have likely never cooked Char Kway Teow (or much else for that matter) for paying customers. I’m also irked by the dismissive attitude of some of these commenters of anything that’s produced in a non-hawker environment by a non-Chinese cook.

For the record, I ate the CKT cooked by the chef and it was top notch; my stance on this dish is that as long as it tastes great, it really doesn’t matter in what order the ingredients are added.

During that same Penang trip, I did visit a traditional hawker stall selling Char Kway Teow with food critic and Penang native Fay Khoo; this place was in Ayer Itam in an establishment called Excellent Café. (FYI a lot of hawker stalls in Malaysia sublet a space inside a “café” – the shop owner sells coffee and beverages and the customers order food separately from a variety of hawker stalls operating within the same building.)

Excellent Café exterior

Excellent Café exterior

Fay told me this was her absolute favourite Char Kway Teow stall in Penang and she’d even tried to talk the husband and wife team to move to Australia to operate here – to no avail.

The wife’s primary job at the stall is to spend all day separating the noodles by hand – the strands are so delicate and thin that they are clumped together.

Husband and wife team at Excellent Café, Ayer Itam, Penang

Husband and wife team at Excellent Café, Ayer Itam, Penang

This is how they cook their CKT – the order of ingredients is different to that in the original video, and also different to mine (I don’t add my beansprouts until the very end).

This was the result, and it was spectacular

Char Kway Teow at Excellent Café, Penang

Char Kway Teow at Excellent Café, Penang

If you do plan to visit, just keep in mind this stall (like many hawker stalls in Malaysia) is closed a couple of days a week and I’m not actually sure which (sorry!) and they only trade certain hours during the day.

If you do miss them, there’s an excellent Roti Canai stall in the same Café, so your trip will not be in vain –

Roti canai stall at Excellent Café, Ayer Itam, PenangRoti canai stall at Excellent Café, Ayer Itam, Penang

Posted by Jackie M. on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Roti canai stall at Excellent Café in Ayer Itam, Penang

So what’s YOUR favourite Char Kway Teow stall in Penang and why? Tell me in the comments on this post (I promise I won’t mock you as long as you’re respectful).

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