Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shanghainese Chi Fan (Sticky Rice Rolls)

Good chi fan is not hard to make. Just make sure the rice roll is compact. In this case, I had boiled the rice instead of steaming it, and it was too soft.

If some of you saw me at Wey's school last Wed morning (he's back for extra classes during the hols), you'd have seen a crazy woman running after a teenage boy taller than her. We never have enough time to sit down for breakfast, the sleepy heads that we are. Now that my car is 2 years old, the kids are allowed to eat in it. What happened last Wed was Wey refused to eat his breakfast and when he was about to get off the car, I told him that there'll be no lunch money. He slammed the door, kicked the wheel and banged his fist on the trunk. This was the second time he had done that and it just wasn't acceptable.

To cut the story short, I sprinted after him, lost him, ran 3 floors up to his classroom (in heels) to wait for him and my calves hurt for a couple of days after that. You have no idea the things I have to do to discipline my boys. Is it me or is it them, I wonder all the time.

Breakfasts are hard to do. The boy's got a poor morning appetite unless it's bacon or dim sum from Sea Park Restaurant on the way to school. His breakfast preference is typical of most Asians: savory over sweet. I agonize the night before what breakfast to prepare for him now that I send him to school instead of his dad who could never get him to get up on his own. With me, he sets his alarm clock and is on time because my rule is 'I'm ready when you are'. That means I don't wake him no matter what time.

Chi fan ( 'fan' is pronounced as 'fun') means, word for word, sticky cooked rice. I never thought I'd make chi fan because it's one of my least liked Shanghainese snack. In fact, I've never eaten a whole roll of the thing. There's just too much rice, especially glutinous rice which I find hard to eat. My hub however, and all Shanghainese, love chi fan. Chi fan is like maki sushi, except there's no nori (seaweed sheets) and the rolls come thick, as thick as a big daikon/white radish. It is a humble roll compared to Japanese sushi. I think the Japanese stole the chi fan idea from the Chinese and as usual refined it, and called it sushi.

You'd need a big mouth to chomp on a chi fan and plenty of soya milk to ease the rice along your gullet. I try not to flip my eyelids when I eat chi fan like a seagull with a melted marshmallow. True story this. I was camping by a lake somewhere in Canada once (I love camping and fishing in Canada. The lakes are incredibly pristine, clear and beautiful and the fish like pike and pickeral are very gullible) and this seagull wanted some food from me. I threw him the marshmallow I was toasting and he swallowed it greedily and started to gag, flipping his eyelids. I'll never forget that. It was funny and horrifying at the same time. I've learnt never to throw a hot sticky marshmallow at birds. Where were we.

I saw how people wrap chi fan in Shanghai and Hong Kong and that is reason No 2 why I don't eat the stuff. Because there's no nori to hold the rice in place, chi fun is rolled on plastic wrap to keep its shape. The wrap is then twisted on both ends and when you buy your chi fan, they'd cut the chi fan in half like they do to sushi rolls in Oz. You take one and peel off the plastic and eat it like a banana.

Very simple everyday ingredients are needed to make chi fan.

I abhor plastic wraps and generally any kind of plastic, even bento boxes. You never know how much of the plastic bleaches into your food even if it looks quite inert. Plastic use is so prevalent in our modern age and I personally believe our health is compromised by the plastic shampoo bottles, plastic keyboards, plastic water bottles, plastic chopsticks, plastic cups, plastic in car interiors, plastic chairs, plastic bags, plastic/melamine milk, thanks to China, and even plastic money. If I do use plastic wrap, I make sure my container is big enough so that the wrap doesn't touch the food. You won't find artfully carefully stacked plastic boxes in my fridge. I use my mom's method of putting all leftovers in ceramic bowls and only if there's liquid would I use plastic wrap to seal. Otherwise, I use a plastic plate to cover. Plastic wrap, which is plastic film coated with chemicals to make it clingy, is more likely to release chemicals into your food than plastic plates.

So please use a a clean plastic bag to make your rolls or better still, use nori even though that's not authentically Shanghainese. No point serving tasty potentially deadly food.

Chi Fan (makes about 6 rolls)
3 cups glutinous rice*
3 pairs of crullers**
1 cup ja chai/Sichuan preserved veg, in thin strips***
1 cup rou xe/meat floss
3 T toasted sesame seeds

*I have used a combination of glutinous and ordinary rice with good results. Yi and I both prefer the chi fan I made with 100% short grain rice to the glu rice rolls. The only thing with short grain rice is it doesn't stick as much as glu rice so the rolls can fall apart easily. Since this is for breakfast, I can't be bothered to get up 3 hours earlier to soak the rice and personally boiled rice is acceptable to me.

**I don't like stall-bought crullers because they are deep fried in oil that's turned black because they never change it. I prefer to omit this ingredient from my chi fun for health reasons but also because I found that I could taste the ja chai & rou xe better without the crullers, and in fact the chi fan tastes better without the cruller. However, if the cruller is omitted, the rice rolls will be slim beyond unrecognition to the Shanghainese. "Je xhi shen mo?" asked my MIL when I gave her some of my chi fun.

***The ja chai in small packets are in strips and marinaded so they are perfect for chi fun. If you can't get them in packets, get the whole ones, wash well, cut into strips and soak 10 minutes (very salty), drain and mix in some sesame oil.

1. Soak the glu rice for at least 3 hours. Put the soaked rice (drained) on a heat-proof dish and steam for 20 to 30 minutes until cooked. If you want to boil the rice, use less water to get el dente rice. I'd use say 3 cups rice and water to level 2 in a rice cooker. When rice is cooked, you can choose to flavor it with some salt if like. I don't because I like the bland rice against the saltiness of the preserved veg and meat floss. Let rice cool a little, not too much or it gets clumpy.

2. Put a piece of clean plastic (I use a plastic bag that's split open) on your working surface. Spread 1 cup of cooked rice onto the plastic into a rectangular shape, long enough for the cruller. Use a damp wooden spoon to spread the rice. Spread 2 T meat floss along the center of the rice, add a piece of cruller, lots of preserved veg and sprinkle the sesame seeds along the filling.

3. Lift the plastic from the end nearest to you and fold over to form the rice into a cylindrical roll, using the cruller to stop the other filling from falling everywhere. Compact the rice with your hands (through the plastic) and twist the ends to tighten and compact the rice.

4. To serve, cut the rice into 1/2 to make two shorter rolls. Eat with either salty or sweet soya milk.


Johnathan said...

Man, Terri, your seagull-marshmallow story really got me giggling and holding back my laughter (Looked like a fool trying hard not to laugh). This is what we called "Hei se you muo" (Dark jokes). Poor seagull... *giggles*.

Johnathan said...

Btw... should I be laughhhhhhheee.. hehehe.. heeehee... *giggles*... (deep breath) Should I be laughing when you mentioned that you are like a siao cha bor chasing after a teenager? Must be a pretty sight for youTube, if you know what I mean.

Sorry for making joke at it... anyway, I believe most teenagers would go through that stage of rebellion to break free from their source of dependence (I know it sounds cotradicting but its just my humble opinion). Its not necessarily a bad thing. If it is done correctly, Wey will grow up to be a truly independent person.

You should've asked your daughter to chase him since she wanted to get slimmer ;p.

zurin said...

First of all Terri that black egg is BEAUTIFUL! its glistening and looks magical. is it the egg or the fotography? Cant forget it. it keeps haunting me the whole day!LOLOL

second thing the pulut roll looks like what Ive been creating in my head for the past couple of weeks but with spicy dried prawn and coconut filling inside...like the malay pulut udang, u know, only i was thinking of just rolling it like u did insted of using banana leaves.

third and lastly, wow ur Wey has a temper doesnt he? lol but dont they all! in my books its unacceptable but ends up acceptable when I cant deal with it LOLOL..breakfast is a pain always... now I sometimes just dont get up and let them prepare it htemselves since they all drive to college n I dont have to send them. sometimes I make french toast the nite b4 and theyll heat it up in the oven toaster nxt morning other wise my second boy just munches on plain bread with nothing...ugh.. I seldom bring myself to prepare breakfast unlessthey want oatmeal.

O n I know what its like to run in heels...do it all the time..LOL

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

hmmm i still prefer sweet over savoury anytime for breakfast..nothing like that sugar rush to start the day..

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

johnathan:d reason why i write things about my kids is so they'll rmember one day when i forget. the things tt happen in this hse!

zurin: yes yes, it's like the malay pulut with the dried shrimps which i like. frankly tt's tastier than chi fan bc there's less rice.

the boy is way milder than his elder bro, tt's all i'll say.but the good thing about my boys is tt they don't harbor their anger for long, like me :)

so tt's why we spend a fortune on shoes :(

joe: u r in the minority i think. most msians eat a big bowl of noodles for brkfst. so unhealthy.so what's ur fav breakfst? give me some ideas.

Lips said...

i'm not a morning/breakfast person either. during school days i skipped breakie till recess time. but i'm always game for breakfast treats with my parents ie dim sum, curry laksa, chee cheong fun. now breakie is a cup of coffee.

we love suppers though. i know most people think that this is bad for health but i think as long as you make room for it, reducing lunch and dinner it's ok :) now all of us can't sleep if our stomachs are empty. we get our best sleep after a nice supper! weird huh

Agnes aka Ric3y said...

Its like sushi without the seaweed sheets :D

TeaLady said...


chumpman said...

As a typical Shanghainese, I like chi fan. But now I don't buy anymore coz I can never finish one on my own, too much rice and I can't just throw away which is such a waste. When I make on my own, my Dad complains my chi fan is so slim, not enough for him wow. He can take 2, why bother ?I made chi fan with sushi mat, quite easy.

terri@adailyobsession said...

chumpman: u r shanghainese? i must tell my hub tt :) if i have to choose between eating chi fan and sushi, i'd never eat chi fan.

HongkongChick said...

i love chi fan, growing up in hong kong, i ate chi fan as breakfast along with soy milk before school. i am making my chi fan with sushi rice instead because it's less harsh for my stomach. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...