February 25, 2011

Penang Food Crawl: Ah Leng Char Koay Teow

Ah….Char Koay Teow (CKT), one of the most highly debated and talked about dish in Penang! There are CKT worshippers everywhere who swear by their own preference of which CKT is the best of the best. There are also so many versions available from basic simple to luxurious and jazz up versions of this dish. People are willing to queue up and wait for 45 minutes or more for a plate of this legendary dish.

CKT is stir fry flat rice noodles doused with a special soy sauce concoction and chili. Prawns, cockles, ‘lap cheong’, beansprout, ‘ku chai’ and egg are its usual accompaniments that give it the famous taste of CKT. Every seller has its own secret and method of producing their own version. Despite its similar ingredients in most of the CKT, I can vouch that no CKT is the same as it depends on the skill and recipe of each CKT seller.

My perfect plate of CKT should have the wok hei of the full hotly seared rice noodle coated with moist scramble egg and aromatic soy chili sauce. Sweet juicy prawns and moist cockles accompany the crunchy fresh beansprouts and ku chai, lightly fried to retain its crunchy and fresh taste in the CKT. Crunchy pieces of lard or lard oil to further boost up the gorgeous plate of luscious koay teow! (I could go on but I’ll save everyone the agony of my perfect CKT..hahaha)

With this standard, I set out to check out the much blogged super famous Ah Leng Char Koay Teow in Khoon Hiang Café, Penang. This super legendary CKT was started by Teoh Koon Leng, 70 years old now, and the stall is now being helmed by his children. Mr Teoh also makes a comment that there is a slight difference in the CKT between his and his children.

Since I was feeling full from breakfast, I decided to take away the CKT for later. I arrived at Khoon Hiang around 10am and was told that there is a wait of 40 minutes as there was already a huge stack of orders in queue. Mom thought I was nuts to wait so long but then she complied because she knows that I am determined to taste this before I leave Penang.

Owner busy at work frying up plates after plates of CKT as it’s actually hard work and this can be physically tiring and hot. I stood there for 40 minutes and he did not even stop for a minute!

I notice that there is this banner that says the owner has another shop at night at a different location. This must be the original shop from the father as I read it somewhere in the paper recently.

Prices differs as it depends on what ingredients you wish and since I was determined to go all the way, I decided on the super extra ingredients and went for the most expensive version at RM10.50. Huge prawns, prawn mantis and duck egg was the extra ingredients for this special plate. Needless to say, mom was shocked and speechless…hehehe!

Let me show you the stages of how the pros stir up a good plate of CKT!

This is the standard plate of Ah Leng CKT which was just plated hot off the sizzling wok after I took the step by step process above.

The take away version of the super extra ingredients CKT. Four fresh juicy huge prawns and quite a few pieces of prawn mantis was the star of the dish! Prawns were really fabulous and huge. It’s like the Rolls Royce version of CKT… hehehe. I thought the prawn mantis was a bit mushy but it did enhance the seafood taste of the koay teow. Duck egg added the sinful eggy goodness to the dish. Since the CKT was also wrapped in a piece of banana leave, the smell was unbelievable. I savored the rice noodles slowly to enjoy the richness of the koay teow with its ku chai and cockles (which was overcooked due to the take away).

Mom cheekily asked me if it was worth the wait and $$? I replied with “Oh yeah! I would do this all over again.” Definitely 99% of my picture perfect CKT. Luckily I am not staying in Penang else I would be patronizing this very often.

If you are not a fan of CKT, there is still an economy rice stall at the same café. Plenty of locals were helping themselves to the wide variety of home cook dishes available. My mom did a take away of this and said the dishes were quite good.

Ah Leng CKT really lives up to its name from my experience. This CKT worshipper is now convinced that this is worth the wait and price for a fabulous plate of CKT. The owner and its helpers were really nice too unlike some CKT stalls I know. I would definitely go back but this time, I would like to eat in to get the taste of the hot off the stove CKT. I think one plate is not enough for me…kakaka!

Ah Leng Char Koay Teow
Khoon Hiang Café
Corner shop at the junction of Jalan Dato Keramat and Jalan Dunlop
Business Hours: 8am till 2pm (or till they run out)

* Two more Penang food crawl coming up... pls bear with me...


  1. I wasted my Penang trip a couple of years back as the food I got was lousy! :( Next time must look for ppl who is well versed on Penang food before heading there again!

  2. Looks very delicious!


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