Rice rolls (cheung fun) are always good, but fresh rice rolls are another story. A wonderful delicious story. At Happy Star Bakery, formerly Sun Light Bakery, rice rolls (or rice noodles as they’re called there) are steamed fresh to order for $2.50 a serving or less.
There are nineteen variations at Happy Star, but all start the same way. A thin layer of rice batter is poured into a tray with the add-in of your choice (or plain if you want to keep it simple) and then inserted into the steamer. A few minutes later, the tray is pulled out and the rice noodle is roughly rolled, cut, and served with sweet soy sauce on the side. Sriracha is also available, if you so desire.
On my visit, I had the steamed rice noodle with shrimp ($2). The rice roll could have been firmer, but the freshness more than made up for it. As for the shrimp, they could have been more generous, but the few that were there provided some needed bounce and texture to a carton of squishiness.
David ordered the steamed rice noodle with Buddhist ($2), which consisted of rice rolls with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, baby corn, and carrots. (No fat deities in sight.)
David complained the vegetables had a metallic tastes since they came from a can, but vegetarian options in Chinatown always leave a lot to be desired.
Skip the Buddhist rolls, but definitely order the flaky scallion pancake ($1.50), which were visibly light on scallions, but mysteriously loaded with solid scallion flavor throughout. If you’re a vegetarian, you may be put off by the fact they cook the pancake on the same flat-top as they do the turnip cakes with pork, but for meat-eaters like me, that means more flavor. It was seriously tasty, and possibly even better than the rice rolls. No need to choose one or other, however, happiness comes either way.
Happy Star Bakery
160 E Broadway (close to Rutgers St; map)
New York, NY 10002