Despite Singapore’s claim on hawker culture, Malaysian food is equally embedded in the country’s culinary language. One of them is Penang char kway teow, which these eight places in Singapore do best.
Penang char kway teow is marked by a number of factors. The colour is pale due to the omission of dark soy sauce, a requirement for the local version, and the dish is cooked until dry. On the other hand, Singapore char kway teow is sweeter, wetter, and much blacker. Both varieties should be smoky with wok hei, and typical ingredients include beansprout, fish cake, Chinese sausage, and scallion. Cockles are also added on occasion.
Unsurprisingly, the best Penang char kway teow in Singapore can be found at restaurants based around the northwestern Malaysian state. They include Island Penang Kitchen, which has an extensive menu of heritage dishes, and Penang Kitchen, in business since 2005. Others have set up shop at hawker centres, such as Jason Penang Cuisine at ABC Brickworks, 133 Penang Authentic in Bukit Timah Food Centre, Penang Fried Kway Teow at Upper Boon Keng, and Simei Penang Laksa Speciality in Jurong.
Direct from Penang, two sisters have opened a stall at Jalan Sultan serving the dish with a local twist, while Sweet Bistro in Holland Drive pauses from its usual programming of pastries to serve the heritage hawker dish during lunch. Check them out below.
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8 places in Singapore for the best smoky plates of Penang char kway teow:
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This Bukit Timah Food Centre stall injects authenticity into its Penang char kway teow by giving an option of cockles. Even without, it quietly wows with its smoky character, hints of char, and considerable amounts of fish cake, Chinese sausage, and beansprout.
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The menu at Island Penang Kitchen is long with multiple varieties of dry and soup noodles, rice, dessert, even garlic bread. Focus on the char kway teow here, which is aromatic with pork lard and wok hei, and goes heavy on the ingredients from beansprout to egg.
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Run by former British High Commission chef, Jason Khaw and his wife Linda, their ABC Brickworks stall explores Jason’s roots in dishes like assam laksa and prawn noodle soup. His Penang char kway teow is exemplary too, boasting a garlicky aroma, smoky depth of flavour, and just the right amount of richness, making it one of the best in Singapore.
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Based in Bukit Timah since 2005, Penang Kitchen’s menu highlights staples like loh bak (ngoh hiang), kerabu mango salad, herbal duck soup, and chendol along with the star, Penang char kway teow. Wok hei penetrates everything from noodles to Chinese sausage, as a glass of bua long long juice refreshes in between bites.
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A discreet sign in Chinese warns diners that their order will be refused if they do not want beansprout in their Penang char kway teow. The vegetable’s firm crunch is essential, and a generous portion of it brings out the interplay between slick noodles, meaty prawns, and wilted chye sim.
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Run by Penang-born sisters Celine and Cindy Choo, Penang Taste tweaks their Penang char kway teow for local palates with a dash of dark soy sauce, drawing it closer to the Singapore style. Besides the colour, the flavours stoutly recalls the original. The dry rice noodles have a smoky wisp of char, and the fiery chilli paste contrasts against the richness.
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While this hawker stall specialises in Penang laksa, char kway teow is actually the mainstay (the former is served only from Friday to Sunday). Housed at Yuhua Place Food Centre for over 20 years, the elderly husband-and-wife team serves their dish with pork lard cubes and chunks of egg, as a topping of fresh cockles brings elements of the sea.
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Sweet Bistro alludes to the kueh and pastries that owner Benz Tan sells throughout the day, but during lunch, the former hotel chef whips up plates of Penang char kway teow. His rendition is dry and heady with wok hei, pairing slippery rice noodles with crunchy beansprout, punctuated by fleshy prawns and slices of Chinese sausage.
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This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore