Penang’s Best Char Kway Teow?

28 Feb

I know I’ve already blogged about char kway teow, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post about the best char kway teow in Penang, a place already renowned for having the best CKT in Malaysia. We were in Penang for a wedding this past weekend, and I was bemoaning to a fellow guest about how I hadn’t had a chance to eat any Penang specialties on this trip. Being Malaysian, she told me where I could find the best char kway teow on the island — and miracle of miracles, we actually found the stall. And it was open!

The infamous Lorong Selamat CKT stall

The aunty who runs the stall, Madame Soon Suan Choo, keeps it old school: her wok is charcoal-fired, with a fan to keep the flames nice and hot. No wonder she has to wear safety goggles.

The wok's so bright, she's got to wear shades

Apparently, Madame Soon is notorious for being a bit, let’s say, brusque with her loyal customers. (And for charging about two ringgit above average, although a plate of CKT at her stall still works out to about $3 USD.) She was even the target of a Facebook boycott campaign after allegedly insulting a customer who complained about the price. Sort of like a Malaysian version of the soup nazi. Personally, I think if you’re standing over a hot, charcoal-fueled wok all day when temperatures are hovering 95 degrees (35 Celsius), you get a pass on being cranky. And not wanting to play waiter.

But do the noodles live up to the hype?

A plate of the best

I haven’t eaten at all of the famous CKT stalls in Penang, so I can’t be definitive, but this was some fine CKT in my opinion. The prawns were unusually large (that’s what the extra charge is for, I guess), the kerang were plump and fresh, and the noodles silky, but not mushy. Most importantly, all of the flavors — the seafood, the paper-thin (in a good way) slices of Chinese sausage, the chili — were perfectly balanced. Char kway teow has a tendency to be greasy, but in spite of the lashings of pork oil (which at first I thought was water when I saw Madame Soon ladling it into the wok), Madame Soon’s version just tastes rich. Tom thought it could have used more chili; I was happy with the level of spiciness. There may be better char kway teow stalls out there — cheaper, friendlier, with larger prawns — but for me, this plate represents a platonic ideal of char kway teow, the standard by which others will be measured.

Ironically, I stayed at a hotel only a few blocks away when I brought my friend to Georgetown. If only I had known about this place then! I would have had a whole weekend to indulge in CKT.

The Char Kway Teow stall at Kafe Heng Huat
On Lorong Selamat, next to the empty car park (look for the aunty with the red hat and the goggles)

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8 Responses to “Penang’s Best Char Kway Teow?”

  1. Susan Millar March 1, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Prob going to Penang in April so will have to check out. Love this blog R xx

  2. Nate @ House of Annie March 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Lorong Selamat is one of the best around, and the fact that she uses charcoal is a big plus. The high prices, though, put me off.

    • rgautz March 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      It is a little pricey, but I think the flavor of authenticity is worth it — plus, the auntie does all the cooking, instead of hiring foreign workers, which I think is one of the ways they keep prices low at other stalls (at least, in KL).

      By the way, I didn’t get a chance to reply to your other comment, but I’m an Iolani grad too (class of ’97). You can run, but you can’t hide.

      • Nate @ House of Annie March 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

        No kidding! Well we’ll certainly have to meet up then. That’ll be an interesting article to put in the Iolani Bulletin.

  3. Tim the Traveler August 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you for blogging about this stall. However, if you have not tried the Lorong Selamat Char Koay Teow, it would be inappropriate to call it “Penang’s best Char Kway Teow”. You should instead call it “Penang’s famous Char Kway Teow”. Use “best” only after you’ve tried it and can recommend that it is the best. Otherwise, use “famous”.

    • rgautz August 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Tim. I used the word “best” because that’s how it was introduced to us, but you’re absolutely right that I probably haven’t tried enough char kway teow in Penang to authoritatively declare this one “the best.” (If only I could visit more often!) In light of your comment, I’ve added a question mark to the title. Just out of curiosity, where is the other Lorong Selamat stall? I’d love to check it out next time I’m in Georgetown.

      • Tim the Traveler August 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

        Thanks for paying attention to my comment. Yes, adding the question mark to it does help – thanks! Perhaps when you’ve tried a number of Char Koay Teow in Penang and found the one you personally like most, you can declare that one as, in your opinion, the best in Penang. It could be an obscure stall which nobody has heard of before. My own opinion as the best Char Koay Teow in Penang is shown in the link. However, I wouldn’t call a stall as “best” just because it is the most “famous”.

  4. ChopinandMysaucepan May 16, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    I’ve been here and the CKT is truly one of the very best I have had in the world.

    She has to be quite brash and rude because if she was nice and courteous, I bet her CKT would taste like shit.

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