7 Tips for Making Mouth-Watering Char Koay Teow

char koay teow plated

Even though I’m from Kuala Lumpur and lived there most of my life, I very seldom ate Char Koay Teow there. I’m pretty picky about my CKT. There is a simple reason for that: my dad hails from Penang. ‘Nuff said!

Ok, I’ll elaborate for those not in the know.

I’m sure there will be some who will challenge my opinion, but I really think that, outside of Penang, there are very few good Char Koay Teows to be had. When I was living in KL, it didn’t matter that I went many months without eating CKT because I knew that a trip to visit relatives in Penang was always on the horizon. I would soon be able to get my fix.

Sister’s Char Koay Teow on McAlister Rd. in Penang

Sisters char koay teow Penang

Now that I am living in California, I miss eating Char Koay Teow quite a bit. So here is my “make-do” recipe for CKT while I am far away from the really good stuff. It’s a decent recipe that I’ve added a few tweaks to so that the flavors stand out more.

Some tips that I have discovered along the way:

  1. Use a wok—a real wok, not one of those non-stick pans. If you must use a non-stick pan, it’ll still be ok, but won’t turn out as great.
  2. Use a gas stove. If you are stuck with an electric range like we are, improvise by getting a portable butane stove and cooking outside.
  3. Use lard. That’s right, I said it. LARD. I save pork fat trimmings in the freezer and then cube them and render them for oil when I have enough to make about a cup’s worth. I have sometimes substituted the lard by frying up some bacon and using the oil from the bacon (save the bacon bits for other applications like salads, soups, or just eating out of hand)
  4. Mise en place. Make sure you have all your ingredients in place before you start. Cooking Char Koay Teow is a very quick process.
  5. Char Koay Teow ingredients: bean sprouts, lard, shrimp, garlic, Chinese sausage, preserved cabbage, and koay teow noodles

    char kway teow mise en place
  6. Use preserved cabbage for additional flavor. I think I got this idea from looking up a recipe for char koay kark which calls for it and I thought, hmm…why not for char koay teow also!
  7. Make single batches. Do not attempt to make a large batch of CKT. This dish works best when cooked individually. I never make this for a big party although I have been tempted to make this into a party activity where everyone fries their own.
  8. Watch your heat. If it’s too high, you can burn your dish easily. If not high enough, you won’t get that wok hei. The first attempt at cooking CKT will give you an idea of how you’re doing with the heat.

Alright, on to the recipe:

Char Koay Teow

feeds about 6 adults
½ cup lard
1 head of garlic, minced
6 tsp preserved cabbage
½ lb of medium-large shrimp (I normally use 26-30 count and allocate about 3-4 per person)
2 chinese sausages (lup cheong), sliced thin on a bias
1.5 lbs of medium-width rice noodles, loosened. Here in San Jose, we can find them at the Asian grocery store, sold in trays, freshly made. If you really cannot find fresh noodles, I believe that dry pho noodles can be used as a substitute… but they just won’t taste as good.
6 eggs, or more if you like it more eggy
8 oz bag of bean sprouts
6 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (optional)
12 Tbsp CKT sauce (see recipe below)

(Some people like cockles in their CKT, but I don’t. Others prefer crab meat. Tell me your favorite CKT ingredient!)


Work quickly and in individual batches.

  1. Heat wok on high heat. When wok is very hot, add 2 Tbsp of lard. Toss in 1 Tbsp minced garlic, stir around and throw in 1 tsp preserved cabbage.
  2. Add 3-4 shrimp and stir it around till lightly pink. Toss in a small handful of Chinese sausage (about 6-7 slices or more).
  3. When shrimp is almost done, push shrimp to side of wok (where it’s less hot) and toss in a handful (about a loose cup) of noodles. Add about 2 Tbsp CKT sauce and chili sauce (up to how spicy you like it) to noodles and stir it around.
  4. Push noodles to side, and crack in one egg (or two). Scramble the egg a little and let it sit for half a minute untouched.
  5. frying char kway teow
  6. Add a large handful of beansprouts to noodles and stir everything together. As soon as beansprouts start to wilt a little, the dish is done and it’s time to plate up!
char kway teow plated


If you’re a kind (read: sneaky) host, pass on the plated Char Koay Teow to someone else and continue cooking. Trust me, the best plate will be the last one (the wok will get more and more seasoned as you cook and the later dishes will take on a more smoky flavor).

Here’s a video we made of the process. NOTE: This video was of the last batch being cooked, when we had barely enough koay teow noodles but a whole lot of bean sprouts!

See how quick that was? Eating it is just as quick, if not quicker.

Cheers, Annie

Sauce for Char Koay Teow

5 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp thick soy sauce
1-½ Tbsp oyster sauce
¼ tsp sugar
4-5 Tbsp water

Put all ingredients into a bowl and stir until the sugar and oyster sauce has dissolved into the other liquid ingredients.

23 thoughts on “7 Tips for Making Mouth-Watering Char Koay Teow”

  1. >@Dragon – you’re welcome! It’s a lot of fun to make.

    @Kevin – I’m sure you can find some fresh koay teow noodles at your local Asian supermarket. Do try this out and let us know how it turns out for you.

    @Bee – OHHH, you got to go to Sisters? *jealous*

    @JS – thanks! You should have seen how fast I ate it.

    @Jessica – Hi Jessica ::waves:: I miss Penang *sooooo* much. Say hi to the fam for me!

  2. >@Sophie – your message sounds spammy and your site’s Terms of Service says that anything posted by us on or though your site is licensed to you perpetually and royalty-free. I understand why you want to do that but I don’t have to like it. Therefore I will not be participating in your contest.

  3. >H! Just stumbled on yr blog. nice to see malaysian dishes. i am Malaysian too just moved to Dallas. And yup have to cook myself for all my home favourites!! I cooked CKT too but not blog it up yet. Visit my blog and see if you find anything that reminds you of home sweet home 🙂

  4. >Oh my goodness, I always have this when I head to our local Chinese resturant, I love it so much!
    Now I can make it myself and eat it all the time! 😀
    It looks delicious!

  5. >Looks awesome! I’ve had the Char Koay Teow at Banana Leaf restaurant; it was the most delicious fried noodles I’ve ever had. Thank you so much for sharing; Your version looks out of this world! I am going to make it this weekend and will follow the recipe exactly, even using tasty lard!

  6. >Do you have a brand you can recommend for the oyster sauce and the thick soy sauce that you use in this recipe?

  7. >Anonymous – good luck with the recipe. If you blog about it, we would appreciate a link back.

    We recommend Koon Chun brand dark soy sauce and Lee Kum Kee brand oyster sauce.

  8. >From Penang and leave in tokyo now, though Tokyo is a big City.No fresh Kui teow,I need to use the dry thai fat noodle pack like dry beehoon.To fried with the Vietnam chilli sos that you used itseems like a good tips to me.As wet chilli are not widely use in Tokyo. Hardly get any spicy food here.I will also add "KU CHAI".the vegy,pork (for Lard) and Seafood are extremly fresh here .Though its very expensive.
    Its so delicious !!! tks for the tips. ean koid

  9. >Hi Annie & Nate – this is a really top recipe. I made it (and reviewed it) yesterday and it went down a treat! The kway teow we tend to get in Australia is a little darker and dryer than this version but the flavours and technique were spot on and we loved it. I made this with lop cheong, chicken and fish cake as the meat and can't wait to eat it again soon, propably with a bit more thick dark soy thrown in. Thanks so much for your excellent recipe and such an engaging blog, I shall be cooking more recipes from you very shortly! Cheers, Beck

  10. I’m so excited I found ur recipe here! I love ckt! N I love it spicy!
    But I don’t know where to get the sriracha chili sauce 🙁 can u give me more details about it? What brand.. Or even how to make it myself if possible?? Thanks a lot.

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