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Apr 28, 2010 12:56 PM

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

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 ...

      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

                    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!

                1. 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
                  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:

                            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.


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


                              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