Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake) is a popular Penang breakfast or supper usually served in small portions. Super tasty and easy to prepare.
When you think of Penang food, most people will immediately shout out Char Koay Teow and that would be correct. However, Penangites will be quick to point out that it has a delicious cousin, Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake). Both share similar characteristics but rice cake imparts a flavor and texture all of its own when combined with finely chopped chai poh (pickled radish).
Another distinct difference between the two is the kind of pan used. Char Koay Teow is stir fried in a wok whereas Char Koay Kak is twice cooked in a huge flat pan, about 2½ feet in diameter. The cubes of rice cake are pan fried on one side while the finished dish is stir fried on the other side.
Char Koay Kak for Breakfast or Supper
Char Koay Kak is usually served in small portions, perfect for breakfast or supper. In the morning, the travelling vendors park themselves close to the market to catch customers going in and out. Many find it convenient to grab a packet to-go as it is common practice for people to buy breakfast home. In the evenings, they move to a different part of the city to serve the supper time crowd. Supper time in Penang is 9:00pm and after.
Char Koay Kak literally means fried squares of rice cake. The texture of the rice cake can range from soft to firm and springy. It is all a matter of personal preference and both types have their following.
The most basic version of Char Koay Kak is rice cake fried with dark soy sauce, chopped chai poh, and bean sprouts. Many people opt for the “extra” with egg. If you like it spicy, you can also request for the vendor to stir in a little chili paste. Yet others will order the “deluxe” version with shrimps. Some vendors also throw in a little kuchai (Chinese chives) for color.
For my home cooked version, I decided to make the “deluxe” version with eggs, shrimps, and kuchai. I like kuchai because it has a slight garlicky fragrance. I also think it makes the dish look more attractive with some green in the mix.
Char Koay Kak From Scratch
If you want to make this dish from scratch, it is a three-step process. First, you need to steam your own rice cake. Second, you pan fry the steamed rice cake. Third, you stir fry the pan fried rice cake. Lucky me, I found prepackaged steamed rice cake from my local Asian market. Maybe someday I will make my own steamed rice cake but for now, I am happy I can take a little short cut. 😉 Buy or make your own, it is your choice but don’t take too long to decide. You really need to make this tasty dish ASAP!
Homemade Steamed Plain Rice Cake
Update (March 20, 2018): Due to popular request, I finally got round to making my own Steamed Plain Rice Cake and am sharing the recipe here with you.
Please click on the picture below to get to the recipe.
Similar Tools Used in Making This Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake)
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Char Koay Kak (Fried Rice Cake)
- 1 packet rice cake (32 oz/900g)
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 oz chai poh / pickled radish, chopped (30g)
- 2 tsp chili paste
- 6 oz shrimps (peeled and deveined) (170g)
- 2 tsp sweet soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large eggs
- 4 oz Chinese chives (cut into 1-inch lengths) (115g)
- 8 oz bean sprouts (trimmed) (225g)
- Cut rice cake into ¾ inch cubes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in non-stick fry pan. Pan fry cubed rice cakes until lightly brown in color, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Heat a large wok on the stove. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil when wok is heated. Sauté garlic, chai poh (pickled radish), and chili paste for 30 seconds.
- Add shrimps and continue to stir fry for 1 minute.
- Then add pan fried rice cubes, sweet soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Create a well in the center of the wok. Crack in the eggs. Stir and toss rice cubes over eggs to get them coated.
- Add Chinese chives and bean sprouts. Stir for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Remove and serve immediately.