我爱中国肠粉…Chinese Funn Rolls!

Posted in Down in Chinatown, Food and Drink at 11:50 am by Benjamin Ross

It’s 10:30 AM. You’re in Chinatown (or Guangzhou for that matter). It’s too late for breakfast, but you’re not quite hungry enough for lunch. You want a little Chinese snack, but don’t want to throw down the cash for a full meal. Enter chang fen (肠粉). I still have no idea how I managed to live in China for 3.5 years, only to finally discover this little snack in Chinatown here in Chicago.

Chinese funn roll changfen
Chang fen, served with scallions and doused in homemade soy sauce

Literally, chang fen means “intestine powder,” with the “powder” in this case referring to granulated rice. The most common English translation is “funn roll.” The ‘fun’ comes from the Cantonese pronunciation of 饭, with the extra ‘n’ to alleviate the potential hilarity of having an item called “fun roll” on the menu.*

The concept of chang fen is similar to that of old-style sausages, only instead of pig intestines, the encasing is made out of rice. The inside can contain a multitude of goodies, however the most common are beef (牛肠niu2 chang2) and shrimp 虾肠 (xia1 chang2).

Chang fen originate from Guangdong, and are frequently found rolling through restaurant dining rooms on dim sum carts. They are often served with a dash of scallions and/or soy sauce on the side.

If you are in Chicago, tasty chang fen are served at the Sunlight Café (227 W. Cermak, in Chinatown), for $1.60. This includes 6 chang fen, and can practically constitute an entire meal, if you aren’t exceedingly hungry. They also have excellent homemade soy sauce. The employees behind the counter don’t speak much English, so if you don’t speak any Mandarin or Cantonese, expect to do a lot of pointing and hand motions. When you go, be sure to tell them that the six-foot Chinese-speaking white guy from Kansas sent you.

By the way, if anybody knows any good places in Beijing to get chang fen, let me know. I’ll be staying near 北三环.


  1. Bill Canada said,

    June 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    粉 can also mean flat rice noodle, as in this case. I was in Chicago may be 20 years ago and found it there then. Wow. It’s only 1.60 ? I envy you.

    Anyway, you should be able to find this in any Cantonese restaurant during Dim Sum hours from London England to Guangzhou China.

  2. harry_d Australia said,

    June 9, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    This is my understanding.

    粉 can mean powder, of course, but in this context, means rice-based “noodles”, or noodle-like foods made from rice powder. So, I guess it can include things like 米粉,河粉,肠粉.

    Commonly, you can see food stores (? southern/Cantonese only) displaying the characters 粉面粥饭.

    The 肠 in 肠粉 is referring to the shape– like intestines. In Singapore, we usually call the plain ones 猪肠粉 . That is normally served with some sweet sauce/ chilli.

    That $1.60 seems like a bargain to me!

  3. Jason China said,

    June 10, 2008 at 12:13 am

    I’ll have to give em a shot next time.
    Also, don’t forget 粉丝. Another manifestation of the 粉. Here in Nanjing a local specialty is 鸭血粉丝汤. Good stuff. (although admittedly I usually hold off on the 鸭肝 though. A bit too salty for my tastes)

  4. b. cheng China said,

    June 11, 2008 at 1:02 am

    $1.60?!? Wow! This is my absolute favorite dim sum dish and always requires multiple orders, is Sunlight new? How does their version compare to the one at one of my favorite dim sum spots in Chicago, the hole-in-the-wall “carry out” version of Three Happiness?

    Staying at Bei San Huan, you’ll be in good position to sample some of Beijing’s best chang fen and other dim sum, Jing Ding Xuan near Yonghegong (on the other side of Er Huan). Its open 24 hours and there are usually deals during off times (ie 14:00-17:00, 00:00-05:00), so its a perfect stop after a night out drinking.

  5. Tony United States said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:25 am

    You just mentioned just one of many nice things to eat doing
    chinese Dim Sum. There is plenty great dishes that comes down
    rolling in those carts. I love chinese morning tea.

  6. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    June 11, 2008 at 9:00 am

    @ b. cheng

    I’m not really sure if Sunlight is new or not. I’ve only lived in Chicago since October, and it’s been here longer than me. It’s a small storefront hidden on Cermak that you probably wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for it. The sign actually says “Eldo Baker” but it’s called Sunlight Cafe.

    The great thing about Sunlight Cafe is that it isn’t even a dim sum place. It’s basically a bakery, run by 广东人 which in addition to your typical East meets West baked goods, also sells various 小吃, most of which are not necessarily dim sum items. Since it’s not really a sit down restaurant, you can get in and get out really quickly as well, making it the perfect place for a quick, short meal. They also sell 叉烧包, which are tasty, but a little unfresh, because they sit out and are reheated in the microwave, rather than being kept warm in a bamboo steamer. I have heard a rumor that the Chicago health department does not allow restaurants to use bamboo steamers for sanitation reasons. While I’m not sure if this is fact or fiction, I have never actually seen a restaurant using one.

    By the way, where is this hole in the wall carry out version of Three Happiness you speak of? I usually go for Dim Sum at Happy Chef in Chinatown Square…don’t think I’ve tried Three Happiness yet…sounds pretty happy.

  7. b. cheng China said,

    June 12, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Chicago has 2 main dim sum spots (okay, maybe things have changed since I left a year ago, but I doubt it), Three Happiness and Phoenix. The “carry out” Three Happiness is across from the main one on Cermak. It has received a lot of fame in recent years as the “little” Three Happiness, which has meant larger crowds, but is still a great spot if you don’t like waiting for the dim sum cart or if you want inauthentic, but extremely cheap Chinese food (they have lunch specials for like $3.95).

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