A Cook's Diary

Is Char Kway Teow Related to Beef Chow Fun?

I had always assumed that the Malaysian char kway teow which is equally popular in Singapore is a descendant of the Chinese beef chow fun a.k.a. beef ho fun, beef horfun and beef hofan.

Is it? Oh, yes. The name of the dish is a giveaway.

From Singapore Infopedia:

Char kway teow (???; chao guo tiao in Mandarin) is a dish of flat rice noodles and tubular yellow wheat noodles fried in garlic, sweet soya sauce and lard, with ingredients such as egg, Chinese waxed sausage, fishcake, beansprouts and cockles. The dish, of Teochew origins, is a familiar one in hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts in Singapore.

In the Hokkien vernacular, char means “stir-fried” and kway teow refers to flat rice noodles.

Story has it that char kway teow was “invented” by Malaysian fishermen and cockle-gatherers who supplemented their earnings by selling the noodle dish to laborers. In its early days, char kway teow was stir fried in lard and the cubes of pork fat from which the fat has been rendered are served on top of the noodles. One can just imagine the richness of the noodle dish when cooked that way but, these days, with the fear of animal fat, char kway teow is often cooked with vegetable or nut-based oil.

Story or stories aside, the invention was in fact an adaptation.

To Top