One of my favourite foods is South East Asian cuisine. I confess I wasn't much of a fan of noodles when I was a child living in Bangkok (I know, what was I thinking?), preferring fried rice over anything else. That's practically all I ate as apparently I was a fussy eater. My sister, on the other hand, was fanatical about them and so was my mum. So every time we'd eat out as a family, I'd always have the fried rice and she'd always have the fried noodles. She's still crazy about them. And I still love my fried rice but in the last ten years or so I've grown rather fond of them fried noodles too. One of my favourites is the Singaporean or Malaysian char kway teow. It's a dish of soft, slick, fat rice noodles fried in a smoking hot wok with light and dark soy sauce, chilli, crunchy bean sprouts, fishcakes, egg and chives. It's one of the must-eat dishes whenever we go to a Singaporean or Malaysian restaurant.
One of my favourite places to have char kway teow is Cha Cha Moon situated five minutes from my office. It's one of the restaurants by famed restauranteur and entrepreneur Alan Yau who dreamt up Wagamama, Yauatcha and Michelin-starred Hakkasan and introduced communal dining to the UK.
When Cha Cha Moon first opened its doors, all dishes were around £4--a complete bargain. My friends and I were practically living there. Admittedly, the portions were small but you could basically have two different dishes and your wallet would still be happy. It's a pretty good way of seeing what dishes the customers were most interested in, but when they tightened the menu and put up the prices, the customer numbers naturally dropped, although they are still pretty busy.
What was innovative about Cha Cha Moon was that they tried to introduce regional noodles, something a little different from the usual fare offered in Chinatown, and made them more foreigner-friendly as it can be pretty daunting going into a Chinese restaurant and not knowing what to order from their extensive menus. And I was happy to see my favourite dish, the char kway teow, remain on the menu.
I would normally go and eat there as the interior is pleasant: all wood, sharing of tables, an open kitchen where you could see the Chinese chefs weaving their magic. But the weather was turning cold and I fancied a take-away.
The noodles were springy and retained the charred and smoky wok hei (breath/essence of wok) and the ratio of ingredients to noodle was surprisingly high, always a pleasing thing.
Flat, ho fun noodles, check.
Sliced, spicy Chinese fishcakes, check.
And my favourite bit of the noodles was the wind-dried Chinese salami which added a slightly sweet flavour with a pleasant chewiness to what is a salty and spicy dish. Very more-ish.
The noodles came with a pot of chilli oil which remained untouched as there was enough heat in the noodles themselves.
Char kway teow may not be a dish to eat every day as it's pretty rich, but it's definitely one I'll be going back to again and again.