How to make a healthier ‘cheong fun’, Hong Kong’s favourite breakfast food

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  • You may love eating ‘pig intestine rolls’ for breakfast, but watch the filling and the amount of sauce you use, because you could be consuming too much fat and sugar
  • Follow this easy-to-make recipe for healthy rice rolls
Michelle Lau |
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Who can resist a delicious cheong fun? Photo: Shutterstock

Fancy some pig intestine rolls for breakfast? Those unfamiliar with Hong Kong street food will probably grimace at the thought but for the rest of us, “pig intestine rolls” is just another name for cheong fun – soft, tender rice sheets drizzled with a savoury sauce.

This beloved breakfast staple gets its name from both its appearance and the ingredients used in it. Cheong means intestine, as the rolls resemble the animal part, which is also a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking. Fun refers to the rice noodles used to make the rolls, and that’s exactly what this simple dish is made of: rice flour.

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While there is no official record detailing the history of cheong fun and the origins of the dish, rumours say it can be traced back to the Han dynasty. According to some cookbooks, the first modern cheong fun appeared in the 1930s in Guangdong province and the first filling used was another breakfast staple called za leungcheong fun wrapped around Chinese fried dough.

Cheong fun is a light and easy-to-digest breakfast food but as you can imagine, it’s a different story based on which filling is used. A single roll of za leung has close to 400 calories, equivalent to the calorie intake of an adult’s entire breakfast.

Thankfully, there are many healthier alternatives in the city. Just take a look at any dim sum menu in Hong Kong and you can easily find three to four other varieties, such as shrimp, scallop and beef cheong fun.

What’s your favourite filling for your cheong fun? Photo: Shutterstock

A single roll of steamed scallop or vegetarian cheong fun contains 69 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates. The beef and shrimp variations have 83 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates and 75 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates, respectively. Hongkongers’ favourite filling – char siu cheong fun – contains 100 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates. These are all great breakfast foods, but only if you go easy on the sauce.

The sauce that is usually served with cheong fun is a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and other condiments. This can easily rack up your sodium and sugar intake.

If you’re up to making your own healthy, delicious cheong fun at home, here is a great recipe that serves three. As for fillings, it’s best to go with shrimp to get in some protein to start your day.

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Ingredients

For the rice sheet, you need 80 grams rice flour, 1 tablespoon tapioca flour, ½ tablespoon wheat starch, 450ml water, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ tablespoon cooking oil. For the filling, you’ll need 100g diced fresh shrimp.

Directions

1. Mix all the ingredients for the sheet well and strain the mixture through a sieve.
2. Wet a steaming tray and place it on a steaming rack in a wok filled with water. Turn the heat to high.
3. Place a piece of cling film over the tray. Make sure the cling film is larger than the tray and hangs over its sides.
4. Slowly pour a layer of the batter to cover the entire surface of the tray. Then add fresh shrimp on top of the batter.
5. Cover the wok and allow the batter to steam on high heat for three minutes.
6. Once the batter turns solid and slightly translucent, remove the cling film carefully and place it on a heat-resistant surface.
7. Using one end of the cling film, roll up the cheong fun.
8. Cut away the sides to get a neater look and divide it into smaller pieces.
9. Serve hot with a dash of light soy sauce.

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