Thursday, August 24, 2006

Waxing Lyrical On Char Kway Teow

Char Kway Teow is a dish loved by all Singaporeans, and what they miss most when on prolonged stays in a foreign country. It is hard to express why we love this mess of flat noodles fried in pork lard. A simple dish actually, if you look at the recipe. First heat up a wok with some pork lard. Brown some minced garlic in it, then toss in the noodles. Stir in and mix a table spoonful of soya sauce that's black and thick and slightly sweet. Add chili paste to taste for that touch of spiciness Now comes the hard part: Use your gourmet instincts to stir-fry this mixture until you can smell the fragrance. Add in bits of shrimp, Chinese sausage, and slices of fish cake. Then throw in a handfil of bean sprouts and chives as garnish. But we are not finished yet. Next break and stir in an egg over this, and finally sprinkle a handful of cockles as a final flourish. With the cockles half-cooked, make a final stir and then take what is now called Char Kway Teow out of the wok.

I think the appeal of this dish that it's a reflection of the Singapore psyche. Simple,robust, practical, maybe unrefined, but honest. None of the subtleties of Hong Kong and Beijing cuisine, this dish directly attacks your taste buds. Plus the fact is that not everybody can cook a good Char Kway Teow. The heat of the wok, and the timing is crucial. There are hundreds of char kway teow sellers in Singapore, but only a handful of good ones.

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