If there’s a dish that we can’t get enough of (and are especially critical of), it’s Char Kway Teow. Typically fried over high heat in a wok for that signature wok hei, flat rice noodles pair up with thick yellow wheat noodles for a contrasting texture. Then there are other ingredients combined to create this tasty medley too, perfect for those into intense and heavy flavours. Hankering after the best plates of char kway teow in Singapore for the next time you visit? Read on.
What is Char Kway Teow?
A delicious plate of this heritage hawker dish usually consists of Chinese waxed sausage (lap cheong), egg, fishcake, beansprouts, and cockles, all fried with lard, garlic, and both light and dark soy sauce.
As established from its name, Char Kway Teow is colloquially known via its Hokkien vernacular. Meaning stir-fried (Char) flat rice noodles (Kuey Teow), this staple hawker dish has Teochew origins (from Chaozhou region in China’s Guangdong province) despite adopting its name from another dialect.
It’s safe to say that the essence of char kway teow lies with wok hei. Literally means ‘wok’s breath’ in Cantonese and expression of smoky aroma, this element is essential to invigorate this dish. Wok hei develops from fiery high heat from charcoal flames. Gas flames are more commonly used in recent times than the former as it produces consistent heat. Other wok-fried hawker dishes, such as Hokkien Mee, benefit in taste from having wok hei too.
Another significant ingredient in Char Kway Teow is cockles. Some hawkers in Singapore tend to omit this shellfish due to health concerns like Hepatitis A, and consuming uncooked or improper preparation of cockles may lead to liver infection. But purists debate that cockles play a vital role in contributing to the dish’s authenticity and rich flavour.
The presence of lard can also make or break Char Kway Teow, as traditionally prepared. Its fragrant properties and crispy physical texture add an umami dimension and retain an authentic taste. Hence, most diners who aren’t as health conscious prefer those fried in lard to the vegetable oil alternative.
Craving the dish already? Us too. Here’s where you’ll find our favourite takes on this hawker staple.
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Where to find the best char kway teow in Singapore:
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Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow, a Michelin Bib Gourmand award recipient, assembles the savoury dish in detail. The cook prepares it at his own pace to ensure balanced flavours for every plate he sends out. Along with the usual suspects, aka ingredients like eggs, cockles, fried pork lard and cured Chinese sausage, you can also detect the mild alluring presence of wok-hei, which attest to the cook’s culinary skills.
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Day Night Fried Kway Teow uses rice noodles narrower than their peers, which soak up the flavours evenly faster. Touted to be one of the more underrated Char Kway Teow in Singapore, its overall taste can rival those from popular stores. While smoky wok-hei is rather faint here, the sweet and wet style technique applied unites the ingredients well.
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Apollo Fresh Cockle Fried Kway Teow stands out for serving a mean wet version of the dish. Cockles appear in abundance here. It also obtains a garlicky profile with considerable scoops that’ll become crispy garlic bits. An easy munch due to its wetness, Apollo’s rendition also leans towards the sweeter spectrum due to the dark soy sauce used.
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In business for over five decades, this veteran hawker uncle got his start from a pushcart along Boon Tat Street in the 60s. Now settled in its current location at Amoy Street Food Centre, his char kway teow has since attracted a loyal office crowd working in the vicinity. The dish here leans more on the smoky savoury end and possesses a balanced consistency between the noodles and ingredients – moist but not soggy.
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Besides making cockles their pride, hence the name inclusion, Cockle Fried Kway Teow is one of the few stores in Singapore that serves two types of char kway teow – black and white. With the white version, it takes skill to infuse flavour using wok-hei and not relying on dark soy sauce to be tasty. The addition of chilli will certainly spice it up to the next level. But we prefer without to appreciate the smoky flavours.
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One of the main hawkers to draw in crowds to Zion Riverside Food Centre, this Michelin Guide-recommended store is certainly a must-try. Even Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has visited, as seen from a framed newspaper cut-out there.
Interestingly, the store is actually unit 17. Those who dislike the sickeningly sweet dark soy sauce will be glad that it’s not pronounced here. Instead, wok-hei reigns along with visible egg bits and al-dente noodles.
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With more than 50 years of experience, you can guarantee a delectable plate of char kway teow here. Hai Kee Teochew Char Kway Teow build its reputation at Margaret Drive Food Centre and moved to its current location as the former was demolished permanently.
One of the only few hawkers to open in the evenings at Telok Blangah Crescent Food Centre, a long wait is expected as everyone will flock specifically to this store. Traditional and no-frills, each of the ingredients shines through – egg, cockles, bean sprouts, and pork lard – together with the distinct wok-hei. Lap cheong isn’t needed here at all.
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Touted as one of the best char kuey teow in Singapore, this store is now helmed by the second generation, the owner’s son. Nothing much has changed since moving from the now-defunct Hill Street Food Centre (beside Central Fire Station).
Wok-hei commands the plate here, thanks to the two-step wok-frying technique. Both kway teow and yellow noodles were lightly cooked in bulk with light soy sauce first before the second fry for serving. The addition of Chinese chives here gives the dish a mild herby bite and the oh-so-good crunchy bean sprouts and pork lard bits make it irresistible.
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Offering both local and Penang variations, owner Peter Lim learned the secrets of frying a delicious plate from one of the best char kway teow experts. Starting out by helping at the latter’s store beside Odeon cinema in Bras Basah in the late 60s, Lim now cooks alongside his son Benny to churn them for eager diners.
The traditional mainstay black fried kway teow will satisfy with profound wok-hei and umami lard bits while the Penang white fried kway teow surprises with a savoury take and tinge of spicy-tangy chilli notes.
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Helmed by a father-daughter duo, this under-the-radar char kway teow store is a well-kept secret with those living in the Havelock-Redhill neighbourhood. Despite being covered evenly with sweet dark soy sauce and salty lard oil, the taste isn’t overbearing when you have it in mouthfuls. Obvious egg pieces team up with smooth noodles for a moreish treat. Here, the plump cockles aren’t overcooked and rubbery, making them a delight to have.
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