Our Cambodian lort cha recipe makes a popular market meal of rice pin noodles stir-fried in fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar, with garlic, bean sprouts and scallions or chives. Of Cambodian-Chinese origin, this street food favourite is typically served with a fried egg and a squirt of chilli sauce.
This authentic Cambodian lort cha recipe makes the popular snack of rice pin noodles stir-fried with garlic, bean sprouts and scallions or chives in a sauce of palm sugar, fish sauce and dark soy sauce. They are typically eaten in Cambodia with a soft fried egg, a liberal squirt of chilli sauce, and perhaps a chive cake or two, which lort cha vendors fry up on the same pan.
‘Authentic’ is such a loaded term, of course, and here I am using it to describe a Cambodian-Chinese dish that’s thought to have Cantonese provenance. What makes this an authentic Cambodian lort cha recipe? It makes the kind of lort cha cooked and sold at markets all over Cambodia, that’s all – not the kind I’ve spotted on a few food sites that have a mile-long list of ingredients. More on the recipe below.
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Cambodian Lort Cha Recipe for Market Style Stir Fried Rice Pin Noodles
‘Lort’, also written as ‘lot’ in the Khmer language of Cambodia, are the short rice-flour noodles, and ‘cha’, also written as ‘chha’ and ‘char’, means to stir-fry. Lort cha is a Cambodian-Chinese dish, originating in Cambodia’s Sino-Khmer communities, and research suggests it’s Cantonese.
Its Chinese provenance explains why you’ll see dishes similar to lort cha right across Southeast Asia using these noodles – also called rice pin noodles, silver pin noodles, silver needle noodles, rat’s tail noodles, and rat noodles. One of the typical dishes you’ll see on your travels is Malaysia’s stir-fried loh see fun with minced pork and salted radish.
If you follow our Cambodian lort cha recipe to the letter it will make you the kind of lort cha you’ll buy at a Cambodian market or street food stall, which is vegetarian, aside from the fish sauce, of course. However, you could also add Chinese greens or cabbage, beef, chicken or pork.
While the main ingredient of lort in Cambodia is rice flour, there’s also some tapioca starch in the dough, and some recipes include wheat starch. The ratios vary depending on where the noodles are made. In Cambodia, where most noodles are rice noodles, there’s little wheat starch used, however, in Hong Kong about the same amount of wheat starch as rice flour is used. Worth noting if you’re gluten intolerant and thought you could eat these.
Lort noodles are also used in desserts in Cambodia called nom lort or nom lot, when the noodles are often green, as they’re flavoured with pandan, and are swimming in coconut milk. They might come on their own or with anything from pandan jelly and pomegranate seeds to sago or yellow beans – or all of the above!
Tips to Making this Cambodian Lort Cha Recipe
We can buy the fresh short rice noodles used for lort cha at our local markets and supermarkets. If you live outside Cambodia, make a beeline for your nearest Chinatown, Asian supermarket, grocery store, or wet market. You can also have a try at making your own rice pin noodles. We’ll provide a recipe soon.
The noodles will be firm when bought fresh, but there’s no need to boil them or steam them with a lid on the pan as some lort cha recipes suggest. The noodles will soon soften up after you start stir-frying them with the sauce. While we like to use a wok to stir-fry this dish (and if you don’t yet have a carbon steel wok, it should be your next investment), at Cambodian markets you’ll see lort cha being made on a huge flat pan that resembles a large paella pan.
You should have no problems finding a good Chinese dark soy sauce – you can also use a light soy sauce if you prefer. When it comes to fish sauce, we use Cambodian fish sauce for our Cambodian recipes, however, it’s not so easy to come by outside Cambodia, when we recommend Thailand’s Megachef, a premium quality fish sauce that is consistent and widely available. American recipes often include oyster sauce (among myriad other ingredients) which is rarely used in lort char in Cambodia.
We buy palm sugar either direct from our palm sugar making family or the local market where we buy it in a form that’s similar to creamed honey. If you buy grains, dissolve them in a tea spoon of hot water first. If you can’t find palm sugar, use brown sugar.
Always blanch your bean sprouts first, whether serving them cold or hot in a stir-fry. Use chives or scallions (green spring onions), not both. Some cooks like to add cabbage or Asian greens such as Chinese broccoli. While our Cambodian lort cha recipe is vegetarian (fish sauce aside) as this is how it typically comes at a Cambodian market, in restaurants and hotels you may spot lort cha with chicken, pork, beef or tofu on menus.
The lort cha noodles are generally pushed to the side and the eggs are cracked and fried in the same pan. You can try that too. Fried eggs are usually well-done in Cambodia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to the point where the yolks are hard and edges of the whites are brown and crispy, however, with lort cha, cooks will sometimes serve the yolks soft.
Street food cooks will usually ask if you want a squirt of chilli sauce and usually offer you a local chilli sauce similar to Sriracha sauce (we prefer the original Thai Si Racha Phanich). If you’re serving lort cha at home, I recommend providing a condiment caddy on the table that includes bottles of chilli sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, along with dishes of chopped chillies and extra scallions or chives, blanched bean sprouts.
Cambodian Lort Cha Recipe
- 350 g fresh lort cha rice pin noodles
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp neutral oil vegetable, soybean
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 100 g fresh bean sprouts blanched
- 50 g scallions or chives sliced at 4cm lengths
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp chilli sauce to taste
- Stir fish sauce, dark soy sauce and palm sugar in a small bowl until well combined and set the mixture of sauces aside.
- Blanch the bean sprouts, finely chop the garlic, and slice the scallions or chives in 4cm lengths.
- Heat two tablespoons of a neutral oil such as vegetable oil or soy bean oil in a wok, skillet or frying pan.
- Fry garlic until it begins to brown, then add the fresh lort cha (rice pin) noodles and the mixture of sauces, and stir-fry the noodles for a few minutes until the sauce covers every noodle and the noodles become soft.
- Add the bean sprouts and scallions or chives and stir-fry for another couple of minutes.
- Push the noodles to the side and fried the eggs or fry them in a separate pan until the whites are done but yolk remains soft.
- Serve the noodles with a fried egg on top. If feeding guests, I serve the noodles with additional dishes of finely-sliced chillies, scallions or chives, blanched bean sprouts, and bottles of chilli sauce, soy and fish sauce.
Do let us know if you make our Cambodian lort cha recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.