Dim Sum: Chang Fen 腸粉

Chang Fen 1

Rice noodle rolls (as they are commonly known in English) are pretty much a standard on dim sum menus and are, indeed, one of my favorite selections. Typically, they consist of a sheet of steamed rice flour batter that is then rolled around various ingredients and served in sauce of some sort.

In Chinese, you will find these appearing as 腸粉, which translates as ‘intestine noodle’ from the resemblance to the same. It is pronounced in Mandarin as ‘chángfěn’. On menus, you may see it appearing as ‘Cheung Fan’, or ‘Cheong Fun’…

The main variety at the center of the above picture is one I was served in Vancouver’s Chinatown this past summer. The sauce here is a diluted, slightly sweetened Oyster Sauce, which is quite common, as are simple Soy Sauce, or a Hoisin Sauce based preparation (XO Sauce is sometimes used as well). Here, the filling is Chinese Barbecue Pork, which is not especially common. The most common fillings I have encountered are fresh shrimp or beef (ground or sliced). You can also get vegetarian types and, indeed the possibilities are endless. I liked the pork, although it was a little dry, but the noodle itself was thin and ‘al dente’ to the right degree.

The two top insets both show shrimp stuffed rolls, one from Vancouver and one from Ottawa. The one on the left had a noodle that was a bit thick and the sauce was just a plain, but very cheap and nasty, dark soy sauce that spoiled an otherwise decent preparation. The one on the right, which has the same rather inelegant look as the left one, was also served in soy sauce, but it was a dilute light soy. Unfortunately, it also had a little 5 spice powder added which is fairly common but which I dislike.

The left picture also illustrates a common practice, and this is the partial cutting of each roll into three sections. Trying to pick up a whole roll with chopsticks can be tricky (a bit like picking up slippery sections of actual intestine, one imagines), hence the standard cuts. The BBQ Pork variety was not, as you can see, cut into threes but, in truth, it is usually easy enough just to ‘cut’ the noodle with a chopstick before trying to eat it.

Finally, not all Chang Fen are stuffed. The inset at the lower left shows one in which unstuffed sections of a roll are served in a sauce with other ingredients. This is not a restaurant roll, rather one purchased in a package from a Chinese store in Ottawa. One can also buy similar rolls where dried shrimp and scallion are actually incorporated into the batter before the roll is steamed. Unfortunately, I have no picture of that type to show you.

In any event, I plan, in upcoming to posts, to present some of my own creations, including those where the noodle itself is homemade. Stay tuned …

 

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