Toronto·Suresh Doss

You can try this rice noodle roll drenched in soy sauce at a Mississauga strip mall

Cheung fun is a translucent, delicate roll stuffed with meat that is typically served at dim sum restaurants.

Yin Ji Chang Fen is located at 4040 Creditview Rd., Unit B5 in Mississauga

Yin Ji Chang Fen serves up cheung fun, a translucent delicate roll stuffed with meat that is typically served at dim sum restaurants. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

The beauty of the evolving restaurant scene in the GTA is that we're continuing to see more of a focus on provincial cooking. Regional specialty dishes that were often found on the back pages of menus are getting their spotlight. 

The almighty cheung fun is finally getting the attention it deserves in our city.

It's a translucent rice noodle roll, so delicate it will fall apart with the softest poke of chopsticks. It generally has a thick, chewy texture and not much flavour. If you've eaten at dim sum restaurants, you've seen them sent around dining rooms on carts, usually soaked in a soy sauce. 

"That's the main thing we are trying to change about cheung fun," said Sam Wong, owner of Yin Ji Chang Fen in Mississauga.

"Usually when you have it at dim sum, it tastes like a rice cake. It is chewy. It is not supposed to be like that."

Suresh Doss takes us inside Yin Ji Chang Fen in Mississauga where they specialize in cheung fun. 0:59

Yin Ji Chang Fen is Wong's ode to traditional rice noodle rolls as he experienced them growing up in Luoding City, in Guangdong province.

"We would eat them regularly for breakfast," he said.

When I first ate at Yin Ji Chang Fen last spring, the experience was somewhat of a revelation. The small restaurant is tucked in the corner of one of Mississauga's busiest strip malls, its team of specialists making fresh rice rolls to order.

There are a few variations, and once you order, the rice rolls are served in minutes — they need to be enjoyed as soon as possible.

Meat that will eventually be rolled into rice paper as part of cheung fun cooking on flat top. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

It took some convincing to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the rolls are made.

"It's not a secret process but there is a technique and there are select ingredients that are very important to getting the right texture," Wong said.

The right texture is a super fine skin of rice noodle that is slippery, silky and almost dissolves in your mouth. To get the right thinness you need a thin rice batter.

"We make this daily, it doesn't keep," Wong explained. A wet cloth is draped over a two layer roll steamer, the batter is poured on, ingredients are piled, and the cloth is quickly rolled and the steamer is covered.

Within seconds it's done, the cloth is retrieved from the steamer and placed on a table and is unravelled to reveal the delicate skin. It is then scraped and rolled to protect the stuffing.

It is served with house-made soy sauce. The sauce is miles ahead of the salty counterparts you would normally encounter. 

Sam Wong is the owner of Yin Ji Chang Fen in Mississauga. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

It all happens lightning fast and the margin for error is anxiety inducing. I wish Yin Ji Chang Fen had an open kitchen so guests could enjoy the process as much as that first silky bite. 

While the variety of cheung fun you would find at your favourite dim sum Restaurant may have a rice cake, here the flavour is very light. The roll itself is a textural experience and a canvas for the filling. The most popular version at the restaurant is beef and shrimp, where the beef flavour dominates with some sea depth from the shrimp.

This is a fried dough fritter version of cheung fun. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Then there's also the crispy roll, where the rice roll is wrapped with a tube of fried dough (youtiao). It's feathery light and soft on the outside with a pleasing crunch when you bite into it. It wonderfully absorbs the soy sauce. Genius. 

My personal favourite is the chicken, mushroom and chives, where you'll taste layers of depth, umami and earthy notes. 

About the Author

Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food writer. He joins CBC Radio's Metro Morning as a weekly food columnist. Currently, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto magazine and regularly contributes to Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and Eater National. Doss regularly runs food tours throughout the GTA, aimed at highlighting its multicultural pockets.

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