I came across this package of fresh rice noodles at the Kowloon Market in Ottawa. Unlike my other purchases, which were unexpected ‘finds’, I was actually looking for these in hopes of making a Dim Sum delicacy known as ‘Cheong Fun’ once I returned home.
‘Cheong Fun’ is the Cantonese name by which this type of stuffed noodle roll is most commonly known. In English, they are simply referred to as ‘rice noodle rolls’ and you can see that that is how they are named on the package I purchased. In Chinese, the characters 腸粉 (pronounced chángfěn, in Mandarin), actually translate as ‘Intestine Noodle’, but… don’t be alarmed… the name is descriptive of the appearance, not any of the ingredients…
The Chinese characters on the front of the package, above the English name, read:
Pronounced ‘xīnxiān zhāi chángfěn’ in Mandarin, these characters translate as ‘Fresh Vegetarian Intestine Noodle’. The market also carried a non-vegetarian version that had dried shrimp mixed into the noodle mixture before they are formed and I am rather sorry now that I didn’t pick up a package of those as well.
The noodles are made by making a batter with rice flour and various starches and then steaming it in rectangular pans to form large sheets. In Dim Sum restaurants, they are then typically rolled around a filling of some type and then steamed once again and served with a sauce. Most commonly, the sauce is a sweetened soy sauce but I have had it with oyster sauce many times as well.
The version you see above is one I had at the Jadeland Restaurant last August. This was a shrimp filled type and you can see that the rolls are actually cut so that the filling is visible (and to make the rolls easier to eat). Other common fillings are beef, pork, or just scallions, but they are sometimes served without any filling as well.
As you can see, the noodle sheets come rolled up quite tightly. It was my hope to unroll them, fill them and then re-roll them before steaming. Sadly, though, that was not to be… The dough was too stiff and brittle to allow unrolling and no matter how careful I was it cracked and broke. I tried soaking a roll in warm water for fifteen or twenty minutes but this really made no difference. I don’t believe a longer soak would help either; that would likely only end up making the outer part way too soft while leaving the tightly-rolled inner part untouched.
As you can imagine, the situation was rather a disappointment. However, I remembered that while I was surfing sites looking for information of using store-bought rolls (there wasn’t much), I ran across a couple of sites where the writers simply cut the roll into sections and then steamed them in a dish with a little water before adding sauce. Lacking any better ideas, for the moment, I decided to try something along those lines …
I cut a couple of rolls into 1-inch sections and placed them upright in a steaming dish. I had already defrosted some small cocktail shrimp to put in the rolls I was trying to make and I decided to use those here. First, though, I poured some of the delicious melted juice from the shrimp over the rolls then mixed a half teaspoon of sugar with a teaspoon of soy and poured that over as well. Finally, I sprinkled on some shrimp and a chopped scallion then steamed it all over high heat for about 7 or 8 minutes.
These were actually very good … not what I had wanted to make, of course, but still quite delicious. I think that, next time, I may steam the rolls whole rather than in sections and use a more complex and substantial sauce; perhaps something where the shrimp are finely chopped, maybe.
There are also quite a few recipes on the Internet for actually making the noodles from scratch. I have been meaning to try that for some time and will try and get around to doing so after I have used the last rolls from this current package.