Best Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake) MacAlister Lane Penang
My all-time favorite breakfast indulgence is Penang Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake), a Teochew-style snack made of rice cake. I’ve been eating from this pushcart in MacAlister Road since I was a child.
Many visitors to Penang will make a beeline for Char Koay Teow but for me, the cousin dish, the Char Koay Kak has more bite!
The pushcart Char Koay Kak stall was started by Yeoh Joo Seng in 1963. This is the most aromatic, soy-infused delicious, cholesterol-laden treat. When senior Yeoh cooked the dish, he used lard oil, of course.
Today the stall is operated by the Eoh sisters. Guat Lan and Guat Hoon take turns to fry up the delicious treat every morning. I’ve tried both sisters cooking and I assure you there is no difference in the “Ko Cha Bi” authentic taste.
The little pushcart stall is enveloped with delicious smoky hot soy fumes as the sisters fry away. Every time I go, I’ll do the Penang thing and wave to the Eoh sisters.
They, in turn, would smile in acknowledgment. Street food vendors in Penang recognize their regulars and remember our orders. Normally I will stand away from downwind and chat with them as they continue to fry away with rising smoky hot soy fumes.
What is Char Koay Kak?
Penang Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake) is usually eaten as a breakfast or even supper snack. Its preparation is almost similar to Penang’s iconic Char Koay Teow. Instead of flat thin noodles, rice cake cubes are for this dish. These cubes are fried in a huge flat cast iron frying pan rather than a wok.
The ingredients are simple enough to replicate at home. Cubes of steamed rice cakes, garlic and preserved radish bits, bean sprouts, chili paste, soy sauce, and chives are fried in lard with bits of lard crackling. Knockin an egg for added creaminess and protein and you have a dish worth queuing for.
The Eoh sisters have replaced the lard oil with vegetable oil for this snack.
I have known the Eoh sisters since they took over the business. When I asked how does it feel to be working and being together every day for the past 50 years, eldest sister Guat Eng says, “Our father started this business and now that he’s gone, he’s left it to his daughters to soldier on!”
Eldest sister Guat Eng is nearby selling “take-otak” (a Nyonya delicacy).
How to order Char Koay Kak?
The standard is with or without egg and extra chili.
My order is extra bean sprouts, chives, radish bits, a little chili and lots of chopped charred soy infused bits! With extra egg knocked in of course.
Pushcart Outside Seow Fong Lye Cafe
94C, Lorong MacAlister, Penang
Opening hours: 7.30am – 1.00pm Days off not fixed