Yesterday was Singapore's national day, and so in honour of this special day, I thought I'd share a very Singaporean breakfast dish, often overlooked for the more popular and flashy nasi lemak or fried carrot cake-- chee cheong fun.
The Hongkong dim sum version is usually stuffed with prawns or meat and then steamed, but uniquely in Singapore, a favourite simple breakfast is plain chee cheong fun topped with sesame seeds and drizzled with a thick dark sweet sauce called tim jeong-- which I hated as a kid. I don't know, I guess I'm just not that keen on that sweet hoisin-ish sauce on plain rice noodles. The Penang version uses shrimp paste hae ko which I haven't tried before but which I have a feeling I'll like, but till then, I decided to tweak the basic tim jeong.
What I ended up with was a less sweet, but more salty and savoury and fragrant sauce. Oh I also added a little twist to the plain rolls by steaming it with chopped spring onions for some colour and light scallion-y flavour. I'll share the recipe for my chee cheong fun sauce before I get to the rice noodles.
My Chee Cheong Fun Sweet Sauce
makes about 1/2 cup, easily multiplied
3 tbsp soy sauce (traditionally brewed/fermented)
2 tbsp molasses (I use blackstrap-more nutritional benefits)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil + 1 tsp shallot oil
a bit of water to loosen the sauce (about 3-4 tbsp?)
Ok, on to the main star. You totally can make rice noodles using this recipe, you'd just have to cut them into strips after that. Instead, I made chee cheong fun, which are wide flat pieces of rice noodle (think rice 'lasagne' sheets), rolled up. The vietnamese version of this is called banh cuon.
The original recipe calls for wheat starch (not the same as wheat flour), which gives that smooth springy texture.There's no proper substitute for it, but I really couldn't find it and I got some tips from chowhounders that said potato/tapioca starch could serve as a (not perfect) substitute, so I went for that instead.
Homemade Rice Noodle
150g rice flour (you can use brown rice flour if you think it's healthier, but I don't really think so anymore, I'll talk more about that next time)
1 1/2 tbsp potato/tapioca starch
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp oil
pinch of sea salt
1 stalk spring onion, green part only, chopped finely (my spring onions were unusually large, if you were wondering)
Watch this video for a clearer idea.
1. Mix the flours together, then stir in the water slowly, before adding the oil and salt.
2. Leave the batter to rest for at least an hour, before adding the chopped spring onions. (If using brown rice flour, leave it to rest overnight. The soaking will counter the anti-nutrients found in whole grains.)
3. Prepare steamer. Place a large (about 8") oiled plate/tray over and let it heat up.
4. Over boiling water, add a scoop of batter into the hot plate and swirl to let it run to the edges. After a few failed tries you'll know the amount to get a thin layer.
5. Steam for 5 minutes on high heat.
6. Let cool. I place the plate with the rice noodle 'crepe' over a basin of cold water. It's easier to remove when cool. Roll up.
7. Cut into sections. (If making rice noodles like kway teow or fun, cut into thinner strips.)
8. Top with as much sauce and toasted sesame seeds as you like.
You can see that it's not as smooth, springy and translucent as desired (see the sauce seeps into the surface instead of coating it) but hey, it did become a more versatile, accessible, and unintentionally zero-gluten recipe.. Texture aside, I thought the noodles tasted exceptionally fresh and more-ish, especially with the fragrant sweet sauce, but then again it might be the "I-made-it-myself!" syndrome, so maybe someone can try this out too and then tell me whether it's just me.