THE recent weeks haven’t been so good in the kitchen for me. I haven’t had much success trying out new recipes, especially in baking bread. I wanted to try to cook pad thai, just so I could have a noodle dish that I can add condiments to, the way they do in Thailand. I finally found the dried rice noodles used in pad thai and followed a recipe I found online. It turned out tasty, but I am obviously an amateur at stir-frying noodles cos I ended up massacring the strands. By the time I was done manhandling them, the noodles were in bits…. don’t ask why or how!!!
I wanted to try making the pad thai again. The dried pad thai rice noodles is actually like keow teow; just not so oily and smooth. Looking at them, I just decided at the spur of the moment that I’d rather eat char keow teow. When I go back to Penang, I hardly eat char keow teow from the hawker stalls because my mother fries good ones for us. She’d fry the char keow teow for us individually, and we will stand next to her and specify how we want ours – mine used to be with lots of chilli, barely cooked cockles, lots of beansprouts and no chives. I like chives these days, so I’d ask for lots of chives too if I were to order char keow teow from my mother. And since she was not around, I had to fry my own.
So, I went and bought the beansprouts, chives and the most important ingredient of all, the cockles. People are wary of eating cockles these days, but we used to have so much of it when were kids. We’d go to the provision shop and buy a bag. Then we’d come home and blanch it quickly in boiling water. We’d all gather around and dig in while they were still hot, deftly cracking open the shells and dipping the bloody cockles in chilli sauce… such simple pleasures.
Anyway, I cooked my char keow teow the way I remember watching my mother do it thousands of times. I prepared the condiment of dark soy sauce, thin soy sauce, sugar and white pepper. First, I fried the chopped garlic, then I added the prawns and then the blended chilli. When it’s fragrant, I threw in the noodles and stir it around (gently), and added the condiment. Then, I cracked an egg in the middle and stir the noodles around it. Then, I added the beansprout and chives, and finally the cockles.
It doesn’t taste like my mother’s char keow teow – the noodles is wrong, for one. And it didn’t have the wok hei, don’t think the wok was hot enough. But it didn’t taste too bad, and I think I prefer my version than the ones sold at the hawker stalls manned by foreign workers. Of course, I am totally biased. But I won’t give a recipe because because it’s not exactly what char keow teow should be.