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Sunset Park Chinatown: "Rice Noodle" Dim Sum From Scratch

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You know that dim sum item usually called "rice noodle", which is like a slimy log of gelatinous rice paste stuffed with shrimp etc, and thoroughly doused with soy sauce?

Ever seen it cooked from scratch? I didn't think so!

Head to sunset park chinatown, to the street vendor at 8th ave and 61st street in front of the HSBC bank. I think he's there every day, and he makes 'em from scratch, and they're the best I've ever had.

He has a big bucket of ricey water (chinese horchata?) that he ladles into a narrow drawer, with a smush of shrimp or pork or whatever (there are eggs on the right side of the cart, and you definitely want to point to one to have it added on). It steams inside a box, and emerges. He squirts on soy, peanut, and/or hot sauce (get all three...just keep nodding "yes"). For an extra treat, he has tripe in a drawer at the extreme left side of the cart (as you face it), at thigh level, and it's ridiculously great.

Zero english is spoken, so please don't make the guy uptight and gringo-averse. If you're allergic or demanding or in any other way high maintenance, PLEASE stay away. This is a treasure for Chinese customers and grateful intrepid chowhounds.

We may be able to help with the language issue if anyone can translate the menu on the side of the cart, which I'll try to attach.

This was an AWESOME find by my friend Marcus Rojas, great tuba player and chowhound.

 
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  1. fresh rice noodle is awesome (its called cheung fan in cantonese and chang fen in mandarin). Indeed it is hard to find made fresh in NY (its so good when you get it freshly made in HK)

    However, for anyone who doesn't live in brooklyn (sunset park is far from the city). They do actually serve it fresh in the city at the take-out stand thingy connected to sunlight bakery on East Broadway and Rutgers. Don't speak much english there either

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      Corner 28 in Flushing does this too ... http://www.chow.com/blog/2008/02/in-f...

      -----
      Corner 28
      40-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11354

      1. re: squid kun

        Excellent. I'm much more apt to go to Flushing or Manhattan than Brooklyn.

        1. re: squid kun

          Corner 28 kinda does it sloppily, though. They scrape the noodle roll out as fast as they can. It's not as prettily rolled as it could be.

          -----
          Corner 28
          40-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11354

          1. re: kathryn

            Also Corner 28's texture is all off -- too firm and rubbery. c oliver, you'd be much better off ordering cheung fun at a dim sum parlor. Even though it's premade, it tastes better.

            -----
            Corner 28
            40-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11354

      2. If no English is spoken,do you have to order in Cantonese?

        11 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          c oliver - It's a process familiar to chronic travelers, combining pointing, miming, and a happy acceptance of errors.

          Lau and squid kun - while I chose to "bill" this as the discovery of a rare foodway, it's equally significant that this guy is really, really good. I don't doubt this is available elsewhere. But I seriously doubt it's this good (though it's certainly possible!). I don't like shlepping to Sunset Park, either. And, for years, I neglected the area, because I never found much good there aside from a couple banh mi places and Kalaka with their weirdo wonderful HK fusion menu. But there's good stuff there now, and this is Exhibit A. It's worth a trip.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            I spend a good part of my year in non-English speaking countries. My question was does THAT dish have to be ordered in Cantonese or can you say "rice noodle"?

            Why would you "seriously doubt" if you haven't tried all others? I keep a more open mind, I guess, always looking for that next, great version of anything. Always the optimist.

            1. re: c oliver

              1. I have no idea how much traveling you do. I was just trying to answer your question! :)

              2. THAT dish is all he does, so it's just a matter of getting the details (though, check out the translation I just posted, yay!)

              WOOPS....wrong. He also does more noodly-ish things. That's what the tripe goes with. Sorry, brain fart. See translation!

              3. I have a pretty good feel for the bell curve of quality among NYC eateries. It's possible that in a set of three guys doing this particular thing, one is stupendous and the other two are equally or more stupendous. But the odds are way against it. My mind's WAY open, too, though, and I'll definitely check them out. Again: the important thing here isn't just the rarity of the dish, but also the quality of the preparation. I'm suggesting it's travel-worthy.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              Got it, Jim. Appreciate this tip, the latest of, like, hundreds!

              To anyone in a position to compare, how does this fresh-made cheong fun stack up against the handful of others around NYC?

            3. re: c oliver

              Not Cantonese. Fujianese or Mandarin will do.

              1. re: scoopG

                well depends who the vendor is, mandarin will definitely be fine. Cheung fan is a very cantonese dish, they are likely cantonese

                1. re: Lau

                  That's what I figured.

                  1. re: Lau

                    Very very few Cantonese in Sunset Park. The lingua franca there is Mandarin, Fujianese, English and finger pointing. Northern Guangdong and southern Fujian provinces share some similarities and blending of cusines.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      yah i hear you although i actually know some cantonese families that live in sunset park. But, i'd be more inclined to agree with you if cheung fan wasn't such a cantonese dish. Anyhow, it's pure conjecture on either of our parts unless one of us (or someone) else goes there and talks to the guy

                      1. re: Lau

                        That's it! We will just have to talk to to the guy. Fujian cuisine also features wontons so I would not be surprised to find rice noodle variations across other Chinese cuisines.

                    2. re: Lau

                      He does speak Mandarin, though I'm guessing he's Foochow. But please note that I've posted a menu translation, so all we need to do, now, is point at the menu!

                2. Translation is in!!! Thanks, Limster!!!!!
                  (note: fish balls are ordinary)

                  Left side, top to bottom:

                  fish ball soup rice noodles (or rice sheets)
                  fish ball cheong fun (as in the dim sum rice sheets)
                  beef innards (tripe) cheong fun
                  freshly pulled (?; not 100% sure) cheong fun
                  tea leaf eggs (for 3)

                  Right side top to bottom:

                  freshly pulled (?; not 100% sure) cheong fun (title)
                  beef cheong fun
                  pork cheong fun
                  char siu/glazed roast pork cheong fun
                  small dried shrimp cheong fun
                  chicken cheong fun
                  1000 year egg and lean pork rice porridge
                  fish balls
                  sausage
                  fish tofu

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    freshly pulled (?; not 100% sure) cheong fun (title) <== it should be translated as "made to order cheong fun"

                    And should be known that the cheong fun with fishmeat balls and tripe probably are plain cheoung fun cut up and mixed in with the meatballs or tripe.
                    The items on the right are "stuffed" in the cheong fun.

                    1. re: pkyc0

                      yah you don't actually pull it, you put the rice batter on this flat metal pan / grill thing and then roll it up

                    2. re: Jim Leff

                      I'm curious what's so good about these cheong fun. Obviously, the fact that they're super fresh is going to help, but how are the fillings? Old school beef cheong fun used to be seasoned with orange peel and were made with strips of beef rather than finely minced beef. You can still find a handful of places that serve it that way. What's the filling here like?

                      1. re: Greg

                        actually the finely minced beef is the classic way of doing it, i actually strongly dislike the strips of beef, but thats just me

                        1. re: Lau

                          Ive never seen it with the strips of beef vs the minced beef - where do they serve it with the strips in NY?

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            ive had it once or twice at some chinatown dim sum places a few years ago (can't remember which one, it was not a memorable meal) and I had it like that once at XO kitchen off Lafayette although normally they dont do it like that, i honestly think the people just got lazy and like pulled it out of ho fun or something, it was awful

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              I actually prefer the mined ones too, I'm just curious how its served here. I'll have to make a trip next time I'm in the neighborhood and find out for myself.

                              As for places that make the beef cheong fun with strips, I can't be certain of any that still serve it that way off the top of my head, but I'm pretty sure there's a place just west of Allen on Grand with a bat motif that serves it that way. (Incidentally, if anyone can explain the bat motif, I'd be much obliged. I thought they hadn't taken down their Halloween decorations the first time I was there, but on subsequent visits I realized it's part of the decor.)

                      2. Essentially, you only get to see this item made if the eating establishment is so small that the preparation can't be hidden from the customers. It is indeed fascinating seeing these made up from scratch, particularly if you had previously consumed hundreds of these items over the years. I first saw the cheung fun being made on Allen St. in New York Chinatown at the spot now occupied by Hua Ji Pork Chop. And at my recent visit to Hua Ji I saw for the first time a green onion pancake cooked from scratch, starting from a round glob of dough and turning into the crispy delight that many of us enjoy. Strangely, three different people took turns tending to the pancake, as the workers in that tiny space transitioned from task to task.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          I'd wondered if they make all their other things from scratch, why would they buy the cheong fun? I've only made XLB so far but just bought a dumpling book.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            If you and the others could help me answer some of these mysteries, I'd appreciate it. Thus far, I've spent my three visits mostly trying to 1. restrain my massive excitement and 2. break through the communications barrier. I haven't dared take photos of his process yet, or tried to work methodically through the offerings, or parse his decision-making. That's what Chowhound's for, after all........using the network to do some of this psyching out!

                            Y'know, since I'm urging everyone to brooklyn chinatown, let me sweeten the deal. Here's another trip-worthy find, close by:
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/704570

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              Jim--If you're hanging around Sunset Park, you should hit Family Dumpling (frequently maligned as it is on this board!) for the stellar scallion pancake, which crisp, tender, chewy, ultra light. Takes this simple snack to a new level. And I'm excited to try your rice noodle guy!

                              -----
                              Family Dumpling
                              5602 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                              1. re: Amy Mintzer

                                Amy, great to hear from you! Long time! FWIW, I tried the dumpling place on 53rd right off 8th Ave, and there was much talent, but precious little care and follow-thru. It's sort of a "troubled" restaurant.

                                I'll try Family!

                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                Don't have an answer for some of those mysteries, but can only pose another one (for me, anyway). Anyone have any inkling why I've seen Asian people with hugh carts full of cans of Spam at Costco in Brooklyn? Do they have a major Spam jones, or are they using it in home or even restaraunt dishes?

                                1. re: FastEddie

                                  Well, Spam is very popular in Hawaii and Okinawa and I gather is gaining in popularity in Japan. Don't know about other parts of Asia.

                                  Edit: We just had Spam with breakfast in Sam's memory and I'm pretty sure he was half Hawaiian and half Japanese.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    spam is extremely popular in korea and hawaii (japanese-hawaiian food, which is delicious btw)...i believe korea is spam's #1 mkt, but I think all asian people like it (i love spam), i've definitely had it many times in HK

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      It's like Horlick's malted milk. If you really want to impress Asians with your homeboy food savvy, order Horlick's or Spam. Reaction is inevitably "Oh, you really know our cuisine..."

                                      Of course, I'm talking about low-end places....

                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                        Here's a Spam musubi story and recipe. I'm going to get one of those gizmos and try my hand.

                                        http://bebeloveokazu.wordpress.com/20...

                                  2. re: FastEddie

                                    Big in the Philippines too.

                            2. This thread, given my strong interest in noodles/dumplings, has gotten me interested. Here's a current link to a place in NYC:

                              http://www.suzannema.com/2010/01/20/b...

                              Also from my limited googling, it looks like they're all made from scratch. Ideally using a special perforated pan with the fillings sprinkled/laid on top of the batter and then it's all steamed.

                              NB: I've had a rotten stomach virus and this is the first food to sound good to me in 48 hours. Must be the "slime" factor :)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                really hong wong had good cheung fan? I tried it b/c its reasonable close to LES and I tried several bbq meats and wonton noodle soup and it was all very mediocre...NY Noodletown, Big Wong etc were all markedly better.

                                But, I guess I'll give it a try, cheung fan is one of my favorites dishes when done right.

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Hi Lau,

                                  I thought I'd jump in since I noticed the link to my blog - thanks! The noodle soups at Hong Wong really aren't their forte, you're absolutely right. But the cheung fun there was amazingly fresh, better than Big Wong in my experience. It might have been the timing. I was there in the morning and I had to wait for it. I believe it came fresh from the kitchen.

                                  1. re: otwsnoop

                                    well its reasonably close to the LES, so i guess ill just have to go walk over there one morning

                              2. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth tens of thousands of words.

                                Here are a number of Youtube videos showing Ho Fun and Cheong Fun being made:

                                1. Commercially made Ho Fun:

                                a. Steaming – Part1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q7u1J...
                                b. Folding – Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvu9fO...
                                c. Cutting – Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryE6Ul...

                                2. Commercial made Cheong Fun (our guess is that the Sunset street vendor makes it with a rectangular cooker similar to the one in the video):

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFlkD3...
                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUYPYm...

                                3. Home-made Cheong Fun (with just a wok and aluminum pie pan): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OQlOY...

                                Some notes regarding terminology is that “Cheong Fun” is just “Ho Fun” that has been steamed with either simple scallions and dried shrimp or other meats and food items and then rolled up.

                                1. No sign of a vendor selling chee cheong fun anywhere on 8th avenue between 62nd and 39th street today (Tuesday, May 11 around 1 PM). Paid particular attention to the corners around 61st and 56th street in front of the HSBC banks where past sightings have been. I was looking forward to comparing this guy's chee cheong fun to the made-to-order version at the noodle annex of Sun Light Bakery (160 East Broadway), of which I've been a long time fan. Regarding Sun Light Bakery's chee cheong fun (picture attached), it's worth noting that they scrape and fold the noodle instead of rolling it and serve it in a pint size plastic soup container, so I'm not sure how apt the title of chee cheong (pig intestine) really is for the noodle they're making.
                                  -Jeremy Fisher, Founder, Dinevore
                                  http://www.dinevore.com

                                   
                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: jeremyhfisher

                                    Wow, sorry, Jeremy; fwiw I've never failed to see him there, he's a real fixture. Maybe he was ill?

                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                      He wasn't there around 3 pm Sunday, either. (Instead there was a Xinjiang kabab cart, on the 61st St. side of the bank rather than the 8th Ave. side.)

                                      But I spotted what had to be the same guy a few blocks up the street, outside another HSBC on the other side of 8th Ave. at 56th. Same menu from your photo, right down to the colon at the top of the 2nd column. Eggs and "horchata" to the right of the cart. Wiry fellow wearing, on Sunday, a baseball cap with an "N" (for Nautica). I motioned down toward 61st and asked if he worked there sometimes. Not sure we were communicating clearly, but he seemed to say yes. I've noted the alternate location in the place record for this vendor.

                                      http://www.chow.com/digest/2010/05/to...

                                      -----
                                      Street vendor
                                      6102 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                                      1. re: squid kun

                                        I used to get rice noodles from a woman with a cart on Canal Street in Manhattan every morning for breakfast. We had quite a relationship--she once gave me some quarters to go across the street and put in the meter for her car, and I gave her a holday gift. Met her son also. Nice kid--high school somewhere. Then she disappeared and I never saw her again.

                                        1. re: squid kun

                                          Curious about this location myself. I'm familiar with the kebab cart on the HSBC corner and love it (and in truth it's one of the few things I eat in Sunset Park), but haven't previously noted the cheung fan cart. The last time I was in Sunset Park was probably winter, though...memory could just be fading.

                                    2. Has anyone paid a visit to this guy recently? Is he still in this location? I live in Carroll Gardens and would like to head down to Sunset Park sometime over Thanksgiving weekend.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: annana

                                        See my posts above: made a couple specific trips to find him back in May with no luck. Have kept my eyes open for him on subsequent visits...nada. If that's your sole reason for going out to SP, I would save yourself the trip unless there's been a confirmed sighting in the intervening months

                                        1. re: annana

                                          The lovely couple's cart has been right in front of the HSBC Bank at 5515 8th Ave. every time I've passed by recently. Just as delicious, just as inexpensive ($1.25-$1.75) as ever.

                                        2. Embarked on an epic MLK day food crawl through Sunset Park (6 people, 9 stops full list here http://nyc.dinevore.com/lists/7510/su...) and am glad to report that the (or at least a) cheong fun vendor is back. Found him on the northeast corner of 8th ave and 56th Street. He was around all afternoon, and his cheong fun was the best I've had in NY. Better (and a bit cheaper) than the cheong fun at my now-former fave, Sunlight Bakery.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jeremyhfisher

                                            I'll agree that it's better than Sunlight Bakery. Quality of noodle is really supple. I just wish I had more filling -- am willing to pay extra but I think it will be difficult for me to convey that to him.

                                            And, Greg, the beef is minced and no tangerine peel flavor to be found.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              Thanks for the info. I still haven't gotten to this stand despite really wanting to.

                                              Incidentally, I was in the neighborhood twice over the last couple of weeks and ate both times at a restaurant called New Spring on 65th Street around the corner from Three Guys. The first was for dinner, which was pretty good. Everything was nice and fresh, the service was friendly and competent and the place was clean. Went back for dim sum hopeful that it would compare to the dinner but was sorely disappointed. Everything was clearly made off premises. The cheung fun were bland and obviously pre-made, as was everything else. The law bok go was inexplicably mushy and tasted fishy. I'd go back for dinner, but you couldn't make me eat dim sum there again.

                                              1. re: Greg

                                                Good to know about New Spring. btw, if you like your beef cheung fun with a pronounced tangerine peel flavor, I think Pacificana is what you're looking for.

                                                -----
                                                Pacificana
                                                813 55th St, Brooklyn, NY 11220

                                          2. In case anybody is checking in, he's out here rocking it right now!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: noisejoke

                                              so yeah, this guy is actually in front of the HSBC on 56th and 8th, not further up. The noodles are good :)

                                              There is also a crazy cart like a block away, near 57th street where a lady has a virtual mini-restaurant going. She has a deep fryer and a grill and will fry like anything you want including fish balls, tofu, eggplant (?) and hot dogs. Also, fried chicken, noodles. Lots of toppings and sauces to go on things as well. Pretty neat.

                                              In terms of sunset park dumpling places, I think Prosperity has been knocking it out of the park lately. Went Wednesday and got 5/$1 and the skins were amazingly chewy and delicious. The filling was good, not spectacular but I liked the skin so much and the filling/skin ratio was really good.

                                              I also bought a take out container of tiny wontons from a lady near the rice noodle cart guy. She was making them there on the street to take home and cook. They were feather-light and super-tiny with like a thimble full of pork in each. I boiled them for a minute and ate with black vinegar at home. Anyone know anything about this? They were pretty good. She had noodles and some other stuff on her cart, which was basically like a granny cart with a piece of wood on it. She didn't speak English but was very nice, explained to me how to cook the wontons...in Chinese, haha, doing that thing where you speak louder to make someone understand you. I guess boiling them was the way to go?

                                            2. That cart's gone, but there's a new one, run by a couple speaking better english. They don't seem to make the extra stuff (e.g. fish balls, soup, tripe), though.

                                              I've attached the menu in case anyone's got a minute to translate:

                                               
                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                I took an Asian dumpling class from Andrea Nguyen in SF recently. Made these. Easy peasy.

                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                  Question marks indicate uncertainty.

                                                  Left column, top to bottom:

                                                  chicken rice noodle roll
                                                  pork rice noodle roll
                                                  beef rice noodle roll
                                                  char siu/glazed roast pork rice noodle roll
                                                  small dried shrimp rice noodle roll
                                                  corn rice noodle roll
                                                  delicate? rice noodle roll

                                                  Right column, top to bottom:

                                                  fish ball rice noodle roll
                                                  fish ball skewer (i assume grilled)
                                                  plain? rice noodle roll
                                                  add an egg (chicken)
                                                  add corn
                                                  tea-leaf egg ? (can't make out last two characters)
                                                  1000 year egg and lean pork rice porridge (small or large)

                                                  1. re: mookleknuck

                                                    Thanks!!!

                                                    Rschwim, yes, same corner. I haven't been there yet, this is actually from a Marcus Rojas report.

                                                  2. re: Jim Leff

                                                    Is this new cart still in front of the HSBC bank?