Penang has been well known for many great foods. One of the foods that if famous were its Char Kway Teow (Fried Noodles). There were many Chay Kway Teow that has been introduced in Penang town as the best Char Kway Teow in Penang. The one that we have made to out top list were Ah Leng Char Kway Teow.
There are a couple of branches of the “Famous Ah Leng Char Koay Teow” franchise on Penang island. The one that is run by one of Ah Leng’s children located at Tong Hooi Café along Dato Keramat Road (directly opposite Jalan Dunlop). The man himself, Ah Leng, can sometimes be seen in his element slaving over a fiery wok.
What makes Ah Leng’s char koay teow really special and loved by both locals and foreigners alike?
To begin with, it has to be the star attraction on the plate – the succulent jumbo-size prawns. For the regular-size serving, you get two prawns and for the “special” version, you get four. These extremely fresh huge prawns justify the price!
The prawn will not be added into the wok first. Bean sprouts, koay teow (flat rice noodles) and prawns are all added to the wok at the same time. This results in the prawns being so incredibly plump and juicy and cooked just right. Their crunchy texture is gratifying indeed. If you are allergic to crustaceans or would not like to be distracted from the rest of the dish, you can of course do without them; the dish is still satisfying.
For a plate of Ah Leng’s “special”, on top of two additional prawns, the char koay teow is also topped with mantis prawns. Like all seafood, cooking them just right is a prerequisite to maintain their unique flavour. Ah Leng fills an empty wok with oil and cooks the mantis prawns in large batches. When cooked, he strains them dry and sets them aside ready for garnishing. He keeps the oil that become enriched with a rich seafood aroma and a beautiful deep orange colour for frying the koay teow later.
Although Ah Leng uses gas to cook, he is able to impart “wok hei” – that aromatic smoky, caramelised “wok’s breath” flavour – into the dish. There is a good balance between savoury, sweet and spicy from a mixture of light soya sauce and chilli paste. I suspect he would have added his secret ingredients into the soya sauce. The spiciness in the dish can be adjusted upon request but is normally, only moderately spicy by default.
The role of the cockles in this dish is equally important. They should be juicy and plump. For those who love small crispy cubes of deep-fried pork lard, they will be in for a treat. Ah Leng’s deliberate omission of the slivers of Chinese sausages does not lower the quality of the ultimate dish.
Ah Leng Char Kway Teow opens strictly from 9am – 3pm (Closed on Wednesdays). Be prepared to wait for a while as the queue during festive seasons and school holidays is long. It also gets much busier during lunch time so I would suggest going early for those who want to avoid the crowd.