One of the best dishes I tried was the char kway teow on Jalan Siam.
We got there at 3.10pm – 10 minutes after the rumoured opening time of the char kway teow stall. At first, we were puzzled. There was no char kway teow man. A nearby kedai kopi – or coffee shop – was filled with customers sipping drinks, but no one was eating anything.
And then we realised: Everyone was waiting for the char kway teow man. You know you’ve MADE IT when customers queue up for you even before you get there.
What Makes A Wok Hei?
When the char kway teow man got there, a crowd formed quickly around him. He started prepping his wok, the ingredients, and most importantly – the large charcoal stove on his pushcart. He dumped the oil and kway teow into his wok and started frying, simultaneously fanning the flames with his leaf fan.
We finally got our char kway teow about 50 minutes later: QQ strips of bouncy kway teow, tasty prawns and Chinese sausage, and a spicy “wok hei” (Cantonese for “smoky aroma”) flavour that burst in my mouth with every bite. (I know right, I should totally become a food blogger)
It’s a pity that we can’t get the same flavour of char kway teow here in Singapore.
Maybe it’s because hawkers just don’t like to use charcoal fires anymore. Instead, they’ve switched to gas stoves, which are more convenient and require less cleaning.
On the other hand, many Penang hawkers – like our char kway teow man – still choose to slug it out over a hot charcoal fire, the same way that they’ve been doing it for the past 20 years.
Why? Because any other way wouldn’t be as good.
Sometimes, it’s better to stick to the tried-and-tested methods, just like when it comes to investments.
The New, New Thing
Check out this email I got from V:
You can’t blame V for being curious about new investments.
We’re constantly reading about new, exciting opportunities in the papers: Tesla! Crowdfunding! Bitcoin! Or our financial planner might meet us for coffee and tell us about a new structured product “with potential to reach 12% p.a!”
Sometimes, people who sell these new investments will try to reach us directly, like this guy:
When we’re constantly bombarded by these “opportunities”, it’s easy to feel like the world is passing us by and that we’re missing out on all the good stuff.
But do these investments live up to the hype? Are they truly that fantastic and will they make us rich? Like ca$hhhh money rich?
What’s The Best Way To Make Char Kway Teow?
Unfortunately – and here’s the rub – it’s extremely difficult for us to know which will work out in advance. For every 10 investments that are hyped up in the media, I estimate that 9 of them will fail miserably within the next 5 years.
You could spend all your time chasing down these opportunities, or you could do what I do – stick to the plain, old, boring tenets of investing:
- Pick a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds
- Keep your costs low
- Hold them for decades
These get me nothing but yawns when I talk to other people, but sticking to the same boring strategy has given me way better results than speculating on the “hottest stocks that will take off in 2016”.
It’s like the char kway teow man who sticks to his charcoal fire even though he could afford a gas stove. The same old fire, in the same old pushcart, in the same old street, for decades.
And yet, his char kway teow is famously delicious.
But hey, that’s just me.
I’d love to hear about YOUR investing experiences. What did you try and how did it turn out? How did it feel?
Let me know in the comments below.
P.S: If you’re ever in Penang, here’s where you can find this legendary char kway teow man:
Siam Road. (off Jalan Anson),
10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
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