Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Little Char Koay Teow Stall...

I still find myself being surprised time and again, and this time by a small stall which I never knew existed. My wife was told by her friend about a stall in Taman Uda that sells only Char Koay teow, and we were told not to go too late as the stall is fully sold out usually after 9pm.

Char Koay Teow, transliteration of "Fried Rice Noodle Strips" is one of the major contributions by the Chinese who immigrated to South East Asia. This dish is popular in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei; also available in Vietnam, Thailand and even in Australia.

In Malaysia, the Penang Char Koay Teow is the most popular. Char Koay Teow might be the same in basis, but differs in accordance to the cook's interpretations. The most basic (and original) Char Koay Teow is usually made of ricecake strips/flat rice noodles fried with anything from eggs (chicken or duck), onions, garlic, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage, et and garnished with chives or spring onions. As time goes by, lard has been substituted with cooking oil (but not olive oil) and the Penang Char Koay teow emphasises more on the use of prawns. These changes actually opened the door to more customers as pork product was eliminated.

There are various styles of Char Koay Teow being prepared. The traditional char koay teow is usually fried dry, usually spiced up by pepper and served with chili, fresh or pickled. The Malays adapted this dish and made their own version. Their contribution to this dish is ground chili paste. It is usually made from dried chilis, garlic and onion, ground into a paste. It is usually fried first before adding the koay teow. Times have really changed where now even the Malaysian and Chinese consume huge amounts of chilis. It is not surprising to find that there are a lot of Chinese customers frequenting Malay Char Koay Teow stalls for this reason. Even some Chinese stalls have adapted chili paste into their Char Koay teow as well.

While Penang is famous for their Char Koay teow, Kedah is more known for their Koay Teow Kerang (Koay Teow with Cockles), which is why I was surprised that there actually a good Char Koay Teow stall in Alor Setar. There might be Chinese Char Koay teow stalls in Alor Setar, but I do not know whether it is Halal or not.

The stall is located in one of the biggest Malay residential area, known as Taman Uda, which provides a quiet and tranquil ambience to the eatery place. The proprieter, Encik Aznil, whose experience in dishing out Char Koay Teow spans more than half of his lifetime. His father sold Koay teow Goreng in Tanah Merah when he was small, and I guess the skill was passed to him. It is a small stall, with about 4-5 tables. He sells only Char koay Teow and his friend sells drinks. The stall starts at about 4.30 p.m. and usually sold out by 10.30pm...or earlier.

I went there with my wife and son. We ordered two Char Koay Teow and one special Char Koay Teow without chili as my son doesn't eat hot food. Char Koay teow is best consumed hot from the stove. Aznill's cooking method is very much Chinese-style, frying over very high heat...flaming and fast. The slight difference is, he serves eggs sunny side up on top of the dish instead of incorporating them into the koay teow.

Aznill's dish has a rich taste of prawns, while the basic flavors are perfectly balanced. Of course, one could request more chili if he or she prefers it hot. A garnish of pickled cili padi is also included. I guess he didn't pickle it that long because it set

my tongue on fire. The taugeh, or bean sprouts are crunchy and the prawns taste fresh. This is not surprising as Aznill gets his daily supply fresh. The kosy teow is not that dry either, Aznill's dish is slightly wet but not too oily. The chilli paste, as explained by Encik Aznill, is made fresh from scratch by himself. This gives the koay teow a very nice taste compared to some stalls that uses the packed chili boh from hypermarkets. He also uses some of the usual sauces used in making Char Koay Teow, and only he knows the right measurement.

Aznill's stall is usually packed around the evenings, around 6 - 7.30pm, where people usually packs Char Koay teow for dinner. Anybody looking for an alternative from rice or looking for a snack for and after dinner, I would suggest Aznill's Char Koay Teow. Located about 10 minutes drive from Alor Setar town, and only less than 5 minutes from the North South Highway Alor Setar Utara Exit. At the moment, Encik Aznill concentrates on selling only Char Koay Teow but considers expanding the menu. I don't know whether he'll find time to do that as the Char Koay Teow business alone keeps him standing behind the wok for most of the business hours.

1 comment:

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