Why You Should Get Your Fresh Rice Rolls From a Tofu Factory


[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

There's no shortage of street carts in Chinatown that sell freshly steamed rice noodle rolls. But if you can only go to one, I'd suggest skipping them all in favor of a visit to a tofu factory near the Manhattan Bridge, which makes a fresher, more delicate rice roll than any I've had from a cart.

To review, by rice roll I mean cheung fun, a thin rice flour batter spread across a steamer tray and cooked as one big, flat noodle until it's just set but still a little custardy. In restaurants, especially at dim sum, it's wrapped around fillings like beef or shrimp. But at street carts, for the going rate of $1.25, it comes shoved unceremoniously into a styrofoam container and topped with the fixings and sauces of your choice. Scarfing down a steaming-hot rice roll on a brisk autumn day is one of New York's great quick breakfasts—the meal at which that you most often see these rolls eaten in Chinatown.

At Sun Hing Lung Co. you order through a small takeout window, and if you don't speak Chinese, you may have to get by with some gesturing towards the rectangular steamer. You can opt to have some egg stirred into your rice flour batter, which I recommend—the egg sweetens and enriches the noodle enough to make it a little more sustaining. As for toppings, sriracha and a sweetened soy sauce are my go-tos—the roll doesn't need anything else.

Be sure to eat your rice roll quickly before it looses its delicate elasticity. If you need to wash it down, Sun Hing Lung Co makes a great soy milk that's full of beany flavor; their fresh tofu is also some of the better you'll find in the neighborhood.

Note that the shop opens early and closes for business around 4 p.m., so plan your trip accordingly.