Tue. Jan 28th, 2020

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Best Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake) MacAlister Lane Penang

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Best Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake) Macalister Lane Penang

My all-time favorite breakfast indulgence is Penang Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake). The aroma of eggs, taugeh, Chai Por and rice cubes being fried in a large pan is just intoxicating.

This is a Teochew-style snack I’ve been eating from this pushcart stall 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!

Yeoh Joo Seng started the pushcart Char Koay Kak stall in 1963. This is the most aromatic, soy-infused delicious, cholesterol-laden treat.

When senior Yeoh cooked the dish, he used lard oil.

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.

It envelops the little pushcart stall 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 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 Penang Char Koay Kak?

Outstation visitors have mistaken this as Char Kway Teow (stir-fried flat noodle dish). The Char Koay Kak is made from rice cakes, not radish cakes. This is prepared differently from the Teochew-style rice cake snack.

When can you eat a Char Koay Kak dish?

Penangites eat Char Koay Kak (Fried Radish Cake) for breakfast or even a supper snack. The dish is eaten as a snack too.

How is this prepared?

The preparation is almost similar to Penang’s iconic Char Kway Teow.

Instead of flat thin noodles, radish cake – they use the steamed rice cake cubes for this dish.

The hawkers fry these cubes in a huge flat cast iron frying pan rather than a wok.

The preparation of the Char Koay Kak is simple. The cook fry up a batch of steamed rice cakes, cut into small bite-sized squares first with lard. Sometimes you get a bonus – bits of crunchy fragrant Bak Eu Phok (deep-fried lard).

Later, she adds in and a mixture of dark and light soy sauces, garlic, and Chai Por bits. The Bits of pickled vegetables are a must, as it added an interesting crunchy texture to the “soft” dish.

Next are the bean sprouts to give it a bit of freshness. This helps to balance out the saltiness of the combined sauces and sweet/salty pickled Chai Por.

Finally, she knocks in an egg (or two–on request) egg in the mixture for added creaminess and protein. Duck’s eggs are exceptional in leading and a full-bodied aroma to the “omeletty” dish.

She Fries it thoroughly and tops the dish with Chinese Chives for crunch and texture.

The ingredients are simple but like many other Penang hawker food; It is difficult to replicate at home.

 

What is the origin of Char Koay Kak?

The origin of the dish is not clear. Because of the combination of the ingredients used, it could result from two ethnic Chinese cultures: the Hokkien and Teochew influences. Everything is brought together by the salty Chai Por.

Char Koay Kak Recipe

Ingredients of Koay Kak

  • Cubes of steamed rice cakes
  • Garlic
  • Chye Por (preserved vegetable bits)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Egg
  • Chili paste, as desired
  • Soy sauce
  • Chives
  • Lard

Modern versions have these ingredients. These new variations by different hawkers try to set their dish apart – Seafood Char Koay Kak or even Char Koay Kak with curried blood clams!

  • Prawns (optional)
  • Squid (optional)
  • Clams (optional)

Sisters Eoh Char Koay Kak @ Macalister Road

Every morning, three sisters will set up their pushcart Char Koay Kak stall in front of the Seow Fong Lye Coffee Shop on Macalister Lane.

They have been doing this for decades.

Their father, Eoh Joo Seng back started the stall in 1963 at the original Seow Fong Lye Coffee Shop before Hong Leong Bank replaced it in the same location.

This was at the junction of Burmah Road and Macalister Lane.

Seow Fong Lye Coffee Shop has since shifted to the current spot next to the side lane.

The stall then shifted to the roadside a few hundred meters from the junction and has stayed at this spot since the 1980s.

Sisters Eoh pushcart Char Koay Kak stall at Macalister Lane, Penang
Sisters Eoh pushcart Char Koay Kak stall at Macalister Lane, Penang. Photo: Doris Lim

The family Eoh’s classic Char Koay Kak dish

I have known the Eoh sisters since they took over the business. Eoh’s daughters Guat Hong, Guat Lan, and Guat Hoon operate the stall together.

All nine of the Eoh children, seven sisters, and two brothers used to help at the stall when they were growing up.

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!”

If you go early, say 7.30 am, you will see the sisters make their way to set up a small table for another traditional homemade snack? The eldest sister Guat Eng sells this alongside their Char Koay Kak stall.

  • “Otak Otak” (a Nyonya delicacy)
  • Teochew Chai Kuih
  • Dumplings
  • Yam cake
  • curry puffs
Traditional Malaysian kuih for sale on a plastic table.
Eoh Sisters sell traditional Malaysian kuih next to the Char Koay Kak stall.

How to order Char Koay Kak?

Penang Char Koay Kak’s standard portion is without an egg. The rice cake cubes are fried with bean sprouts, preserved radish bits, chili paste, soy sauce, and chives.

Nowadays, not all vendors add chives to the dish.

My order is with the extra bean sprouts, chives, radish bits, a little chili, and lots of chopped charred soy infused bits! I like an extra egg to make it creamier! Some foodies like to have double eggs for a creamier texture.

If you haven’t tried Char Koay Kak before I will suggest going with the egg. There is no vegetarian version as this stall uses lard to cook.

Some hawkers still use lard oil, but most have changed it to vegetable (palm oil.

Char Koay Kak fried on a flat cast iron pan.
Sister Eoh frying Char Koay Kak on a flat cast iron pan.

Making a Deluxe Version of Char Koay Kak

Some stalls sell a premium version of this dish with seafood.

For my home-cooked version, I make a “deluxe” version with duck eggs, prawns, sweet pickled radish bits, mung bean sprouts and extra chives (kuchai).

I love the slight aroma of Chives. This makes the dish look more attractive to add some green in the mix.

Where to find Char Koay Kak stalls?

This is a street food that you can only find in Penang and the mainland. Other hawkers in other states try to cook it but to a Penangite, the taste is different.

Some hawkers still add Chinese chives but the crunchy deep-fried lard has become few and far in between, perhaps due to more health-conscious consumers who ask not to have this added in.

There are plenty of hawkers’ stalls selling Char Koay Kak all over Penang, especially early in the morning for breakfast, in the afternoon for tea or late in the evening for supper.

What is the calorie count for a plate of Char Koay Kak?

For a standard serving size of 385 g plate of Char Koay Kak has 742 calories!

Char Koay Kak cost per plate?

Cost per plate between RM4.50 to RM5.00

A serve of Char Koay Kak on a piece of banana leaf.
A plate of Char Koay Kak.

My recommendation:

Eoh Sisters Char Koay Kak | Seow Fong Lye Coffee Shop | 94C, Lorong Macalister, George Town, Penang| Business Hours: 7.30 am-1 pm | GPS: 5.417095,100.328967 | Days off are not fixed.

My favourite seat, at the five foot way, eating and chatting with the sisters.

Where to find Koay Kak Stalls in Penang?

Here are some stalls to try out:

  • Burma Road Char Koay Kak
  • Batu Lanchang Market Hawker Center
  • Bayan Baru Hawker Centre, Bayan Baru
  • Char Koay Kak @ Jalan Raja Uda (Butterworth)
  • Char Koay Kak @ Bukit Mertajam Berapit
  • Fu Lu Shou Cafe
  • Fried Koay Kak, Lebuh Carnarvon
  • Kedai Kopi Cathay
  • Kedai Kopi Kwai Lock, Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus
  • Kedai Kopi Teoh Guan Hup at the ground floor of Block 2G, opposite Old Farlim Market (breakfast)
  • Midtown Cafe, Lorong Selamat (lunch)
  • Perak Road Market (morning)
  • Restoran Enrich
  • Restoran Keat Seng, Air Itam
  • Restoran Lye, Batu Maung
  • Sin Yin Nam Cafe, Jalan Macalister – New Lane junction
  • Stall at Lorong Selamat
  • Stall opposite old Lip Sin Market at Lebuh Nipah, (breakfast except for Friday)
  • Sungai Ara Food Court
  • Super Tanker Ford Center, Lengkok Nipah
  • Taman Kheng Tian Night Market, Jelutong (Friday evening)
  • Teluk Bayan Hawker Centre, Sungai Nibong
  • Yi Garden, 150 Jalan Macalister

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