MALAYSIA - Stir-fried rice noodles, popularly called char kway teow, has been claimed by a neighbouring country as belonging to it.
However, I do not intend to debate on the issue but rather, I want to highlight that this dish was originally sold by cockle-hunters in fishing villages to supplement their income.
Today, there are two main versions of char kway teow - in the north of the peninsula, it's a dry dish while in the south, it's wet. Here is my Top 10 list of delicious char kway teow in the Klang Valley.
1. Mali's Corner Char Kway Teow, Platinum walk Setapak
IN this self-service restaurant, you order food at one counter, drinks at another and pay at the third counter. Prices of char kway teow are RM7 (special), RM5.50 (large) and RM4.50 (small). The noodles are fried in a thick brown-greyish gravy and garnished with sliced green chilli. The gravy has a smokey flavour and a fishy base note from the belacan. Quantity is not generous, even for large plates, but prawns are aplenty. Mali's Corner opens from 6pm till early morning.
2. Auntie Gemuk, Jalan SS 5A/9, PJ
ONCE inside Restoran Jamal Mohamed, you can identify this stall easily from the "Fatty Aunty" in action at the wok. The hallmarks of her char kway teow is that she doesn't use too much dark soya sauce, so the dish is lighter in colour, with half-cooked cockles. Her technique of scorching the noodles with a tinge of sambal belacan at awesome temperatures creates a near-perfect delight. Open daily but only half-day on Sundays.
3. Blue Boy Vegetarian Restaurant, Jalan Tong Shin
WHERE can you find an Indian guy who speaks fluent Cantonese and fries awesome char kway teow? At Blue Boy Vegetarian Restaurant of course. His name is Ah Wah and he has been frying vegetarian char kway teow for more than two decades. Though consisting only of kway teow, chives, bean sprouts, garlic and tofu slices, his culinary fare - served on a banana leaf - has a robust flavour and is low in oil. The coffee-shop is in the back of Blueboy Mansion, so the easiest way to get there is via a side lane next to Plaza Magnum on Jalan Pudu.
4. Doli Kway Teow Goreng, Jalan wan kadir 4, Taman Tun Dr Ismail
AIDI Suffian, nicknamed "the chef with the magic kuali", creates a scrumptious cross between the Northern and Southern styles of char kway teow that leans towards the dry side. A standard plate costs RM5, while the RM10 special version has extra prawns and a stomach-filling quantity of noodles. The cockles and prawns are well-fried but not rubbery, and the thick noodles pack bounce and spring. Furnished with dark wooden tables, the restaurant is clean and airy. Doli is closed on Friday.
5. Aimar Corner, Taman Sri Gombak
THIS shop is a household name in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Shah Alam. Ever since owner Wan Shuhairul Wan Darus expanded his operations to Batu Caves, char kway teow lovers in uptown Kuala Lumpur have been going there in droves. The noodles are thin and fine and the aroma-packed gravy is brown and thick, a result of his specially concocted sauces. Be prepared to wait during peak hours.
6. Putra Corner Char Kway Teow, Jalan SM6, Taman Sunway Batu Caves
THE exciting vibe of the colourful sign of Putra Corner complements the robust taste of its char kway teow served on a banana leaf on a plate. The bean sprouts are crunchy and the egg is scrambled into tender yellow golden curds that are light and fluffy.
7. Robert Char Kway Teow, Jalan 17/29, PJ
THE English-speaking lanky Robert dishes up non-halal char kway teow with everything. When he attacks the wok with vigour, ferocious flames lick its base and great clouds of steam envelopes him. In less than five minutes, it's ready to be served: Noodles with chives, cockles, lard crisps, sausages, crunchy bean sprouts, finely scrambled egg and sauteed garlic bits.
8. Tiam Fatt Fried Kway Teow, Jalan bandar 1, Taman Melawati
FOOD aficionados refer to Tiam Fatt's non-halal chow as duck-egg kway teow. As duck egg has a stronger aroma than chicken's egg, his char kway teow is more fragrant and his chilli really hot. As a frequent customer, I recommend going during off-peak hours as the fryer sometimes falters in quality to meet the large quantity of orders. Closed on Tuesday.
9. Thye Hong Char Kway Teow, Pavilion KL
THIS is pork-free fare and a Singaporean franchise which has been in business there since 1970. Fish cake slices replace sausages without any seeming damage to the taste. The noodles have a firm structure which holds up well and the bean sprouts are fresh and crunchy. Overall, it can do with more intense heat from the wok. The counter staff wear rattan hats as a trademark.
10. Uncle Lim Char Kway Teow, jalan vive kananda, Brickfields
THIS pork-free char kway teow can hold its own against more famous stalls. It contains fish cake slices and other standard ingredients. Uncle Lim speaks fluent English and can fine-tune the dish to your preferences, such as adding more (or less) chives or egg or chilli paste. Money's Corner, where his stall is at, is not the easiest spot to find in Brickfields. From Jalan Tun Sambanthan, turn right at the post office (not Poslaju) and take the first right again.