Penang Day 3: Char koay kak 炒粿角

Char koay kak, RM2.30

Char koay kak, RM2.30 ≈ S$0.95

So here’s what really good char koay kak tastes like! The sad, soggy version I had on the first night is nothing like the real deal!

This was an unexpected find. Ricky and I were walking back to Traders Hotel after breakfast at Toh Soon Cafe. From Campbell Street (Lebuh Campbell), we walked down Cintra Street (Lebuh Cintra). When we reached Kimberley Street (perpendicular to Cintra St.), I spotted two pushcarts selling food.

The friendly auntie and her helper

The friendly auntie and her helper.

My foodie radar told me we were on to something great, so I insisted on checking them out! One was making ban chien koay 慢煎糕, the other was a lady frying char koay kak with gusto! Luckily I only had kaya bread and milk tea earlier. Breakfast Part 2, here I come!

Char koay kak is the Penang counterpart of Singapore’s chai tow kway 菜头粿 (fried radish cake). Actually, our chai tow kway is a farce, ‘cos there’s no chai tow (radish) in the kway (cake), only seasoning and MSG. In Penang, they simply call it char koay kak 炒粿角 (fried rice cake chunks).

One's frying the koay, the other's cutting fresh pieces into the wok, which is fired by charcoal and wood.

One's frying the koay, the other's cutting fresh pieces into the wok, which is fired by charcoal and wood.

Because the taxi we hired was waiting to pick us up at the hotel, we packed our char koay kak to go. The steamed rice cakes are fried with chai po 菜脯, beansprout, Chinese chives, garlic, egg, and dark soy sauce.

The seasoning isn’t as thick and sweet as the Singapore “black” chai tow kway. The taste is more savoury and just mildly sweet. But it’s delicious in its own style, and the crunchy beansprouts are so refreshing! There’s plenty of wok hei too! Gosh, it’s really scrumptious! I’m now drooling at the memory…

I wonder if the Singapore XO-sauce fried radish cake with beansprout was inspired by Penang char koay kak?

Also read: Penang Day 1, Penang Day 2



  1. owet says

    Small world, I was searching for kway kak in Singapore and I chance upon that article and I wanted to go Penang try it. And you came along and accidentally found it as well.

    I grew up eating kway kak from a wet market that used to be at the junction of Nee Soon Rd. The taste was unique and I remember customers can just go to the market and buy prawns and the stall owner will happily add it into the kway kak. They use the same sweet sauce for frying the yellow noodles and bee hoon as well. Last time the Jia Xiang carrot cake stall in Tiong Bahru market also fried it the same way. But the taste is now lost as the same owner cook it the same as any other stall in Singapore.

    I heard there are 3 old ladies who still fry kway kak in Lorong 4 Toa Payoh but now the food center is under renovation and I’m not sure if they will be back once the food center is reopened. I just hope kway kak has not gone ‘extinct’ in Singapore.

    Another dish that will go ‘extinct’ is the Hokkien prawn mee, nowadays most stalls cook them without that hokkien mee aroma anymore.

  2. says

    Hey, I was wondering why you didn’t blog for so long because there wasn’t any update in my Google Reader. Just happened to open your blog page and I’m surprised to see posts abt food of my hometown! 😉 Now you make me crave for char koay teow and char koay kak!