This morning I felt like going down the street to my local laoban (The boss of an establishment in China, in this case the boss of a restaurant) and ordering a bit of Chang fen.
Chang fen (肠粉) is a very common breakfast in China. It is made with rice paste (Rice ground up in a machine and mixed with water) eggs, meat, and vegetables. The way they cook it is by steaming it in a multirack steamer. They crack an egg on a cooking tray, mix in the rice paste, spoon in some ground pork, a couple vegetables and send it in the steamer for a very short time.
When it comes out of the steamer, they pour on top a sauce which is a mixture of soy sauce, oil and water and garlic. When served, I recommend adding a dash of chinese chilis, lajiao (辣椒) to give it a little more kick and flavor. When I came in the restaurant with my girlfriend this morning, the laoban gave us 2 complimentary drinks of dou jiang, 豆浆, or hot soybean milk!
The soybean milk is probably the most common drink at breakfast for Chinese people. It can be served hot and cold, and is very refreshing either way.
When you bite into chang fen for the first time, it might seem a bit plain. It is a breakfast food that can be done very poorly, or very graciously! I have had terrible chang fen, and mind blowing chang fen. This restaurant is up there with high quality, but not quite the best. However, the cost is just amazing. One order of chang fen at most places in the city runs for about 4 ￥, or ~.64 USD! I got two eggs with mine, so mine was 5￥, about .80 cents. For the two of us it was only 9￥ total, ~$1.50! The soybean milk was complimentary but normally costs around 2￥, .32 cents.
To describe the taste, think of rice. The base of this dish is a rice paste, so think of rice but in sheets instead of rice grains. The texture is different, but the flavor is a bit plain and the same as eating white rice. This is why they have the sauce served with it to give it more flavor, and also adding lajiao or cilantro on top is a good way to bring out the flavor.
Overall I definitely recommend trying chang fen if you are in China, or even recommend it as a daily breakfast if you live here. It is cheap, delicious, and relatively healthy compared to most foods on the street. I’ll leave you with a recipe for two bean spicy beef chili, which is episode 5 on my cooking show (The lighting in this episode is not very good, I apologize for that, but in all episodes after the lighting issue is fixed 🙂