The Char Koay Teow Man
“WITH egg or without egg?” the Char Koay Teow Man asked me, as he wiped his hands on his apron.
“With egg,” I replied. “I don’t want any cockles, though.” “Okay.” He placed a piece of banana leaf inside a cardboard box as he started to prepare my takeaway.
I stood near his wok to watch him fry his char koay teow. He heated the oil in the wok and put into it some chopped garlic cloves, a dollop of ground chilli, and a few shelled prawns. After stir-frying this mixture for about 10 seconds, he added koay teow noodles and two teaspoonfuls each of thick soy sauce and light soy sauce. He finally added bean sprouts and cut chives to the piping hot food.
The Char Koay Teow Man then used his spatula to create a hole in the centre of the noodles, where he introduced a little more oil and an egg that he cracked on the edge of the wok.
“May I make a suggestion?” I said, trying my best not to sound like a smart aleck.
“ Of course,” he said, without looking at me.
“I think it would be a good idea to crack the egg into a bowl first.” “Why?” “Well, if the egg is bad, it will not spoil the noodles and the ingredients that are already in the wok.”
Dividing an ebullient smile between another customer and me, the Char Koay Teow Man said: “ To be sure, your suggestion is good, but the poulterer who supplies the eggs to me assures me that they are fresh. Taking into account his assurance – and I believe he is a trustworthy fellow – I don’t see any problem at all if I break the egg directly into the wok.”
It was a satisfactory answer, and I had egg on my face! Piping hot: Very hot. A smart alec(k): A cocky person who thinks he knows everything. Of course: Naturally; certainly. To be sure: Admittedly; certainly.
Take into account: To consider all the facts before making a decision or judgement. At all: In the least; in any way. Have egg on one’s face: To look foolish or be embarrassed.