Char Kueh Kak, simply translated, is fried rice cake. It is a popular Malaysian street food synonymous with breakfast, especially in Penang. The traditional, basic Char Kueh Kak is just cubes of homemade rice cakes fried up in lard, bean sprouts, some pickled radish (chye por), a whole lot of soy sauce, an egg & some chilli paste if you want it spicy (who doesn’t?).
These days of course, lard has been replaced by vegetable or peanut oil and you are just as likely to find some seafood or chicken in the mix, much to the horror of purists!
I have many memories of visiting my dad who lived in Penang and going out to pick up some breakfast. Now as these were visits from the UK & I’d be dying for some home food, our breakfast would be a typical Malaysian collection of Nasi Lemak (Malay), Char Kueh Kak (Chinese), Putu Mayam/Idiyappam (Indian) and Mee Siam (Nyonya)! I hear your confusion – while I often describe myself as born and bred Singaporean, my dad’s Malaysian, I spent a little of my childhood in Malaysia and of course I have as much family in Malaysia as I have in Singapore (both my sisters are married to Malaysians & live there). So to me, it is home too. And of course, Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine is, to a large extent, very similar.
Anyway, back to our Char Kueh Kak. This recipe was given to me by one of the stall holders we used to frequent and following her advice I always make my own rice cakes, an extremely easy process of just mixing the flours with water (with or without freshly grated daikon/white radish) and steaming for about 30-45 minutes. Don’t go for additive laden shop bought, please!
The general method is to use twice the amount of water to flour, this is something that you can tinker with as you make it more often. I reduce the amount of water slightly, preferring a slightly more substantial texture in my rice cakes.
There are some ingredients here that you can do without and still get a fab dish, like the pickled radish, fried garlic & dried shrimps, you won’t find the last two in a basic Char Kueh Kak, anyway.
Use tamari soy sauce or other gluten free soy sauces in place of regular ones which contain wheat.
Chinese fishballs are usually made with cornflour but check the ingredient list.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2 with seconds)
For the Rice Cakes
250g rice flour
30g tapioca or cornflour
1 small daikon, grated and squeezed of excess water
450ml cold water
generous pinch (or one eighth tsp) of bicarbonate soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fried garlic flakes (totally optional)
1 – 2 tbsp veg oil (I don’t use much oil)
3 cloves garlic, sliced widthwise
2 handfuls beans sprouts
2 tbsp chye por (found in most Chinese grocers)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then pounded
1 tbsp (or to taste) chilli paste, or 1 fresh chilli, pounded or sliced
2 -3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
You will need an 8″ x 8″ square dish or something similar, lightly greased.
1. Rice Cakes. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then gradually, stir add the water, stirring with a wooden spoon. Lastly, stir the daikon in. You’ll end up with a very sloppy mix.
2. Pour this batter into the prepared dish and steam for 30 – 45 minutes, until firm. Keep an eye on it, if you see it rising, take a sharp knife and pierce through, that should take care of it.
3. When done, let it cool thoroughly, for at least 6 hours, to facilitate cutting.
4. Cut in cubes of about an inch square.
5. To fry: Heat the oil up on high heat in a roomy wok or frying pan.
6. Fry the garlic, dried shrimp and pickled radish for about 30 seconds.
7. Add the eggs, let them set for 30 seconds, then scramble lightly.
8. Add the rice cakes to the still wet eggs, stir, then add the soy sauces & chilli. Mix thoroughly.
9. Add the bean sprouts and cook for a couple of minutes, check seasoning & adjust if necessary.
10. Sprinkle with spring onions & squeeze some lime juice all over, serve immediately.