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Jul 26, 2006 07:42 PM

Tell me about chow fun please

What makes a good chow fun? Are there regional variations?

To me, chow fun means greasy noodles, but I am a Chinese food idiot and don't select restaurants well.

What makes chow fun ... chow fun ... the flat noodles?

I recently had something called Thai street noodles on the menu, but the manager called chow fun.

They were spicy hot flat noodles chock full of fresh basil, chicken, beef, slivered red and green bell peppers, fresh green beans, onions and probably other items. The veggies were finely chopped as was the meat.It was chow fun in all its glorious, greasy goodness.

BUT ... it wasn't OVERLY greasy ... which I am guessing would be good chow fun ... correct?

A post today about chow fun described a chow fun dish as ...

'The beef chow fun was excellent with a nice sear on the thin and tender slices of pounded beef. The rice noodles soaked up the beefy flavors. In lieu of bean sprouts, the plate included yellow leeks, green onions, and thick slices of charred yellow onion. At first my mother wrinkled her nose at the big onion pieces, but then she said, "The onions are good. Try it, they're sweet and still a little crisp."

I wanted to ask about chow fun on that board but since it really was about chow fun in general and not just that dish, I thought I'd post up here.

The only topic on the subject asked abou Chiu Chow Fun and got into a discussion of Chinese donuts.

So what makes good chow fun? Where did it originate? Are there special eating tips ... like adding condiments?

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  1. "fun" usually refers to a specific class of noodles that use rice flour. In Cantonese cooking the two main "funs" are the wide rice noodle and the thin vermicelli (oddly enough referred to as "mai fun", literally rice(raw, "fan" is cooked rice) "fun"). "chow" just refers to the method of cooking (stir fry).

    Good chow fun shouldn't be too greasy, but remain in such a way that the noodles are not sticking to each other (which usually requires a good bit of oil).

    I'm not a noodle-nazi, I won't tell you what you can/should eat chow fun with, but it's usually eaten however it's prepared, with no condiments, save for some members of my family, who would (very rarely) add chili sauce.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Blueicus

      Chow fun (no relation) comes "wet" and "dry"...wet refers to a sauce or gravy served with it...and "Dry" favorite... should be cooked in a way that the smokey "Flavor of the Wok" (Wok Hai) permeates the whole dish...the dish itself is not 'dry' but it Definitely should not be swimming in oil!

      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        Thanks Mr. ChowFun. That's right, now I remember the wet and dry discussion on the SF board. I probably asked it over on the SF board before ... many times.

        I just searched the General Board because, well, searching for chow fun on the SF board would have given me a lot of not what I was looking for. At least I have this info now in a central place.

        1. re: ChowFun_derek

          That smokey flavor distinguishes good chow fun for me. It's hard to describe but you know when you taste it. I like the fun thinner and whiter (below the sauce). Usually, the fun I get in restaurants is too oily but when it's good, I can eat a plateful.

      2. The "fun" in chow fun should be fresh. It is steamed in wide sheets,lightly oiled, then folded and sold fresh. The oil in production already makes the fun a bit greasy. To use, it is cut to the desired width while still folded, hence the overlapping stacks. There is a noodle factory in the SF Mission district that makes only this one item and wholesales to various restaurants and stores.
        The wet style chow fun that ChowFun_derek refered is more of a recent import from Hong Kong. I grew up eating the dry chow fun with lots of wok hay which only restaurants can produce...the fun are still slightly chewry with just enough oil to lightly coat them. I find very few restaurant produce a good version of this dry style...most cook the wet style unless you specifically ask otherwise.

        4 Replies
        1. re: PBSF

          NOW you tell me! First I did the eating, now I am FINALLY learning about what I have been eating and enjoying all these years!

          Thanks to all of you for your great answers to a question that I didn't even know to ask!

          1. re: PBSF

            I've seen fresh chow fun sold in Asian groceries but have never been able to cook them successfully. They're rolled up like cigars, some with additions like dried shrimp (I think) and something green, some plain. They're too fragile to unroll. I've been told they have to be fried with lots of oil, and not to soak them in water or they'll clump. These directions are from two Cambodian stores where no-one spoke much English. When I try to cook them, they fall apart.

            Do you have more explicit instructions? What am I missing? I've just about given up on these, but I love eating them in south Asian restaurants (char kuay teow).

            1. re: cheryl_h

              Char kuay teow is the Singaporean version of chow fun. It is one of the most popular dish in Singapore. The best are found in the food courts and street vendors. Can't believe the heated arguments over which vendor makes the best version.

              1. re: cheryl_h

                what you just described sounds more like look fun to me, but maybe someone can correct me on that.

            2. The ones that are flavored with dried shrimp, etc, and rolled up like cigars should be eaten as it, like dim sum. It doesn't keep and gets hard and dry by the next day. Then, I usually cheat and microwave it lightly. It dulls the flavor a bit, but it comes out moist and slightly chew. I haven't had much success re-steaming them.
              The "fun" use in cooking should be just plain, folded into one wider stack and sold in one pound packages. You might find it next to the flavored ones. As a kid, I used to just cut up some plain fresh fun and sprinkle them with sugar and eat it as a sweet.

              5 Replies
              1. re: PBSF

                Actually the rolls with the shrimp and scallions can be cooked and are often seen on dim sum menus in the SF area. HK Flower Lounge has a hot plate set up in dining room to make this dish. The rolls are cut into 3" or so lengths, browned on a hot plate and tossed with XO sauce. But that's not chow fun.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  The infamous "XO" sauce. That is what really I want with my dried shrimp and scallion chang fun. What ever happened to the hot chili oil with a dash of soy? Thanks for the info.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    When the rolls are really fresh, I'll eat them cold with a bit of hot chili oil and soy or with oyster sauce. The hot method is good for when they get a bit stale and stiff.

                2. re: PBSF

                  Sounds like you are talking about chang fen, or "bowel" noodles. These can be tasty, but all too often come with a sickeningly sweet sauce to put on them, or (cringe" already doused in the syrup.

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    I remember the great street stalls in Hong Kong where they sold great plain cheung fun in that addictive hoisin/sesame sauce combo. Having gone back recently for a visit, I was lucky to find a stall (not a street cart) that sold them. They sure took me back.

                3. Since you mention "regional variations," I've always considered paigu nian gao to be the Shanghai version of chao fen. It's a hearty passel of meat topping wok-fried rice "pasta" and can be "dry" or most often doused with a "red" sauce, and permits only a very minimal intrusion by anything veggie. The meat in this case is usually pork cutlet, pork chops or meaty ribs, any of which may have been breaded or not. The rice "pasta" (fen) in this case is nian gao, or rice "cakes" which are normally modest pasta sized (familiarly prepared with mustard or other greens at Shanghainese restaurants) but in the case of this can be cut huge, like the over-the-top version in the linked image. It's certainly comfort food and definitely more guy food than girl food.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    When I was in Shanghai, we were taken to a place touted as an authentic Ningbo cuisine restaurant. The "nian gao" we got there reminded me of that rabbit candy, stir fried with what looked to be flakes of green nori. The dish was slightly sweetish in flavour.

                    1. re: Gary Soup

                      And if RW's interested in trying paigu nian gao, here's a link to a discussion on the SF board for local versions.


                    2. The great joy of chinese food is the tremendous variety of different regions, and that they are all really different. So, something seemingly simple like a noodle dish will be totally different the next village down the read. It is my dream someday to eat my what through the villages in rural China.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jerry i h

                        To be picky, when I order osso bucco, I know exactly what I will get in the US. Maybe a better example would be pizza.