Rice Noodle Roll (腸粉) at the Cafe Orient in Ottawa’s Chinatown
The Rice Noodle Roll served at the Cafe Orient in Ottawa’s Chinatown is a little different than the standard variety, both in form and flavoring. The size and shape is not unique to this restaurant, but the sauce they used on top of their version of ‘Cheong Fun’, represented an interesting twist I have not come across before.
The first obvious difference between these 腸粉 and others served elsewhere is that they are formed from very thin sheets of rice noodle, rolled quite tightly, and then cut into lots of small, bite-sized pieces. They are also not stuffed with a filling but have tiny sections of green onion, and tiny Dried Shrimp of the sort known as 蝦米, cooked into the noodle itself.
The form used in this case translates into a different eating experience than the usual 腸粉, or ‘Cheong Fun’, whose thick, loosely rolled, and very slippery tubes make the Chinese name, which translates as ‘intestine noodle’ very apt indeed. That sort can present a bit of a challenge, especially to those not used to chopsticks, whereas the small, tightly rolled type seen here are light, and very easy to manipulate.
As for the texture and flavor of the Café Orient Rice Noodle Roll, they were steamed to just the right degree and tender without being overly soft. The green onion added no flavor at, and the tiny sections were scattered so scantily into the sheet that they just gave some visual appeal to the finished rolls. The dried shrimp, on the other hand were discernible, although their umami notes were very delicate and lent only highlights of flavor rather than changing the essential character of the noodle.
It was the sauce toppings that were unique in this dish. Oyster sauce was drizzled over, which is very common, but this particular version of 腸粉 also had thin streams of peanut sauce added as well. In all honesty, though I found this an interesting twist, I couldn’t decide, either during, or after eating the dish whether or not I liked this or not, and I probably wouldn’t bother doing it this way at home. Still, that is really only an issue of personal taste, and in all respects I thought the Café Orient Rice Noodle Roll was excellent.