I remember Chee Cheung Fun from my childhood days. It is surprising how very often I would associate a dish with a moment in time. The name Chee Cheung Fun literally means 'pig intestines noodle ', possibly not the most enticing accolation to a dish but this described it perfectly. Made from rice flour, steamed and then the thin sheets are rolled to form something that is not dissimilar to the innards of the porky swine. However, do not let the name put you off these delectable snack. The layers of thin rice noodle are often silky smooth and tender, has the most decadent texture and when served with a rich accompanying sweet sauce, is just simply divine. This is also unsurprisingly one of the most popular requests in a Dim Sum restaurant.
To be honest with you, what I remembered from as a child was not this Hong Kong-style Chee Cheung Fun but something altogether, rather different. If my memories served me correctly, I was never a fan of this version as to me, it lacked the familiarity of the type found in Ipoh, Malaysia where I often had this dish when spending my school holidays visiting my nan. The basic ensemble were the same - rice noodles served with a sweet sauce. But in Ipoh, the freshly steamed Chee Cheung Fun were thinly cut accompanied by a sweet mushroom sauce, chilli sauce, curry gravy with pigskins (gasp! Yes, pigskins!) and topped with pickled green chillies. It was decidedly different but delicious nonetheless.
However, instead of attempting to recreate that familiar Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun, I thought I'll be less adventurous and make something easier which is this Hong Kong-style that is commonly found in Singapore hawker centre and many dim sum restaurant. I have used the term 'easier' loosely 'cause this attempt was not without any problems along the way.
First of all, I needed a vessel large enough to cook the rice mixture which wasn't easy. This will then have to fit onto the steamer which meant the size can't be too big. I initially tried using a square plate, but that was a fail our as even after lightly greased, the cooked Chee Cheong Fun just refused to peel off the plate.
Next, I decided to lined the plate with a cling film (was going to use muslin cloth but I've ran out and believe me, it wasn't the easiest of thing to get hold of) and that didn't helped as once steamed, it shrivelled and unwrapping it became a tedious task in itself, let alone trying to peeled the rice sheet off. So finally, a stroke of genius occurred (didn't realised I had that in me), I decided to use the base of a non-stick cake tin and lord and behold, it worked beautifully. Being a great conductor of heat, it was a tad tricky to spread the rice mixture but with the help of my trusty oven gloves, the problem was solved. So here's how I made my Chee Cheong Fun if you want to attempt in creating this Cantonese classic. I used hae bee/dried shrimps and spring onions for mine but you can also add Char Siu (Cantonese roast pork) to the fillings as a variation. Otherwise, you can easily find this dish available at any good Dim Sum restaurant near you.
Ingredients (serves 2)
140g Rice flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour/sago flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil plus more for greasing the tin
3 tbsp fried shallot
3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan
10g hae bee (dried shrimps), soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, optional
2 spring onions, cut into rings, optional
For the sauce:
4 tbsp kecap manis
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
100ml hot water
1 tsp sesame oil
To make the sauce, gently mix all the ingredients except for the sesame oil and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, until all the brown sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool completely before adding the sesame oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the rice flour, tapioca flour, water, salt and sunflower oil together. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps and set aside.
Prepare the wok or a steamer for steaming. Lightly grease the cake tin base with a brush and steam the empty tin for 1-2 minutes to heat through.
Note: I've used a 9in/23cm cake non-stick cake tin with a loose base and use only the base for these.
Stir the rice flour mixture to mix well and ladle about 1/3 ladleful of the mixture into the tin base. Tilt the tin base to spread thinly and evenly. Use a kitchen glove for this as the tin is scalding hot.
Scatter a small handful of the hae bee/dried shrimps and spring onions over the spread mixture.
Note: If making plain version, ignore this step.
Cover with a lid and steam for 1- 1/2 minutes, until the mixture turns translucent. Remove the tin and using a spatula, loosen one end of the cooked chee cheung fun and gently roll over to form a cigar shape. If you find the roll too small, make another layer of cooked chee cheung fun and roll this onto the second layer to double it up for the desired thickness.
To serve, cut the chee cheung fun into 1in lengths. Place on a plate, sprinkle with the crispy fried shallots and sesame seeds and pour over the sauce.