Char Kuay Teow is one of the dishes which resonate well in the Singapore foodie community. It is an unmistakable staple so ingrained into Singapore culture that is it said to be one of Singapore’s national hawker dishes. Day Night Char Kuay Teow is a Fried Kuay Teow store only specializing and serving this favorite Singapore’s hawker delicacy. The hawker stall located on the second floor of Bukit Merah Central.
The history of Char Kuay Teow
Unlike Singapore’s other national dish, the humble Hainanese Chicken rice, the origins of Char Kuay Teow is not as straightforward. It is believed to have originated from Chaozhou in China’s Guangdong province. Moreover, despite its Hokkien sounding “Char Kuay Teow” name, the stir-fried noodle dish is often served by and associated by the Singapore Teochew community.
Hence the dish is more Teochew than Hokkien. This is despite the Hokkien language vernacular, “Char” means “fried” or “stir-fried”, which is how the dish is prepared. Moreover, “Kuay Teow” refers to flat rice noodles. Essentially, the flour noodles which primarily makes up the dish. It is a carbohydrate ladened dish which was invented as simple filling and cheap meal for the ordinary man. In a nutshell, it is an uncomplicated dish of rice noodles fried stir-fried in dark, sweet soya sauce, garlic and lard.
The only one dish served by the store is Char Kuay Teow, brought to you by a husband-wife duo. A lady will take your order as her husband is seen behind the counter busy frying each order. Each dish order is individually fried on demand. Hence, it is not uncommon to see long queues forming in front of the store. A typical wait is about 10-15minutes with a queue of about 6-7 people, as long no one does a mass-order. The price of the dish is reasonable too. A basic plate starts from $3 a plate with options up to $5 for a large sharing plate. It is not uncommon to see patrons just having the dish as their main meal.
A tasty sweeter Char Kuay Teow
Your dish is fried in garlic, dark sauces, eggs and lard for flavor. This comprises mainly of a mix of sweet black soya sauce, sweet flour sauce, fish and light soya sauce. From this combination, I found the dish pleasantly sweet to the taste but not overwhelming. Also, when served with a dash of lime, it does give colour and flavor to the otherwise rather plain-looking dish.
Moreover, the flat noodles served are mixed well with the thick yellow wheat noodles. Traditionally to prepare the dish, the Kuay Teow are laboriously cut from hand-rolled rice sheets into thin noodle strips. Nowadays, these noodles are factory-made and ready to used as frying ingredients. Moreover, these flat noodles are then fried together with yellow thick wheat noodles. This sets the base for the dish where additional ingredients are added.
Furthermore, It is tad different from most mainstream hawker Char Kuay Teow. The texture is not dry but not too wet that the noodles are all soggy and overcooked. The lard pieces are small, crunchy and not as intrusive as some Char Kuay Teow stores who leave their lard pieces as big large chunks. I tend to prefer the small chunks as it blends well into the dish. Though I can vouch for a couple of friends I know who love to chew on the said large pieces. So I guess it is subjective. You won’t feel them at all in your dish unless you are specifically looking out for them.
Attack of the greens
Moreover, on top of an added egg, you also have a touch of greens in your dish. You get white radish, some traces of bean sprouts, chopped chives as well as cut leafy vegetables in your dish. These vegetables are also known as “Chye sim/Cai Xin” or “Choi Sum” in Hokkien and Cantonese respectively.
Other seafood ingredients includes chopped fishcake slices and a small dashing of cockles. Also, the ones served here are minute and are hidden within the dish, so you might miss them unless you are specifically looking out for them. Cockles are also known as “See hum” or just “Hum” in Hokkien. So it you hear someone saying “Mai Hum” with their order it means no cockles.
Additionally, each dish comes with small servings of Chinese/ Taiwanese waxed sausages and parsley pieces. In Cantonese, these waxed sausages are known as “Lup Cheong“. These are subsequently added into the noodle mix. The cockles and Chinese sausages are usually put in the last part of the frying to so as not to lose their moisture from overcooking. This keeps the meats juicy before serving.
A traditional dish with a modern twist
Furthermore, Fried Kuay Teow is traditionally best cooked over a smokey charcoal fire. It is almost cooking over a barbecue. A hot fire gives a “Wok Hei” (Smokey) flavor, which essential to the dish. This believed to provide the best flavors for the dish.
A combination of chef skills and fire control gives the dish’s trademark smoky fragrance. Most foodies use this as a gauge of authenticity and the mark of a good Char Kway Teow dish. Notably, this tradition was kept till most part of the 1950s. Then, firewood was used to replace the smokey charcoal despite the age of mainstream switch to gas-fired cooking stoves. This is to similarly infuse the dish with the all-familiar smoky flavor.
At Day Night Char Kuay Teow, the dish is cooked over a gas fire. It is more economical and modern to do so. It still retains the smoky aroma, which goes with the dish. In fact, you get this smokey smell all over this entire section of the hawker center. Hence, you have a problem finding the store. You can definitely smell your way there.
All in all, Day Night Char Kuay Teow was a pleasant experience. A gem of a dish as one of Singapore’s favorite hawker delicacies. Do check it out when you are in the Bukit Merah central region.
Day Night Char Kuay Teow
163 Bukit Merah Central
Opening Hours: 10am–8pm daily, or while stocks last (may close earlier)
Closed on Thursdays (Rest day)
Makan Place Locality Map