Friday, February 10, 2006

Rice Noodle Snakes

One of my favorite breakfasts which is fast becoming difficult to come by in the old style, is the "Chu Cheong Fun" or rice noodle rolls. Yes, it is still very common at dim sum restaurants where they are stuffed with shrimp or char siu (roast pork) and served simply with sweet soy sauce on top or "fried" with scallions and dried shirmp until they are slightly crispy on the outside but still soft and yielding on the inside.

But the chu cheong fun I remember are the ones sold in carts, with the cart owner, would cut the air with the scissors, making a "snip, snip" sound to attract customers. When you asked for your order, a plastic bowl (usually puke green, pepto bismol pink or shocking orange) would be whipped out and a square of wax paper smacked on top with a smear of oil (which, for ease of use, would be in a paint can and "painted" on with a paint brush).

Then, the scissors would be put to use. Depending on how much you wanted, they were sold according to lengths or snakes as I refer to them. Last time I bought from the cart, it was HK$1 for each snake. The cart owner would pull up the number of snakes you wanted, approximately the length of your forearm, and snip them into bite size pieces into the bowl. Then you decided what sauces you wanted. I want everything which means the sweet sauce (hoisin), sesame sauce (ma jeung), chili sauce and soy sauce. On top of the whole lot, sesame seeds would be sprinkled liberally and you were given a few toothpics to eat there or the lot would be thrown into a small plastic bag to take away.

I am lucky (or unlucky as I often think) to work in an industrial area of the city. Which means I have benefits such as cheap food, polluted air and no Starbucks. However, what we also have, is an abundance of old-school foods such as chu cheong fun. Quality ones as well. What I often buy for my breakfast is the chu cheong fun and "sui mai" combo. However, it is not the sui mai (shrimp dumplings) you get at dim sum, it is the poor man's version in that it looks like a sui mai but is actually a vaguely fishy tasting chewy bit of carbohydrate, kind of like a softer, chewier fishball...sounds strange but is oddly addictive. My set costs HK$7.5 and is good enough to last me until lunch.

And, as when I was a kid, I still unroll the rolls before eating. For some reason, it tastes better that way.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

Oo, those look good! I've never eaten them before. :( Haven't seen them here at least. Grr.