My earliest Chinese food memories center around Cantonese chang fen slurped at the counter of Mei Lei Wah in the mid 1970s with my father who taught me all I know about Chinese food. Beef roll, as he called it, awash in sweet soy sauce, was his go-to and mine was shrimp.
Over the years I’ve tried many versions, including yim shui cheung fen, which stars cilantro; one stuffed with fried crullers; and my current obsession the gossamer thin version made from freshly ground rice at Joe’s Steam Rice Roll. The other day I encountered a kind I’ve never had, a deep fried version, listed on the menu at Congee Village as sweet or salted pancake ($6.50).
When I ordered it at the Flushing outpost of the Manhattan Chinatown stalwart I had no idea it was a steamed rice roll. The English translation salted pancake led me to believe it would make for good congee dunking. When it came out flecked with green onion, bits of dried Chinese sausage, and baby shrimp it looked slightly familiar, though not altogether dunkable. The slightly crisp exterior gave way to pleasingly squishy innards filled with salty fried dried shrimp and little nuggets of sausage. Moments after the first bite I realized it was a fried rice roll.
Xian bao bing as the salty version is known is great on its own and even better with Congee Village’s house chili paste. I even tried a bit in my congee, but it’s really meant to be eaten on its own. When it comes to congee companions, I’ll stick with the classic you tiao, or oil sticks as the fried crullers are called in Mandarin. I am, however, curious about some of the other varieties of rice roll on offer at the Village, notably the luxe sounding steam rice roll with XO sauce ($10.95). I plan to eat one in honor of my father later this spring.
Congee Village, 36-36 Prince St, Flushing, 718-888-9799