Fresh Rice Noodles Made By Hand at Hawaii’s Look Fun Factory — Dining on a Dime

Fresh Rice Noodles Made By Hand at Hawaii’s Look Fun Factory — Dining on a Dime


We’re on King Street heading towards Kekaulike Street where we are going to the Ying Leong Look Funn Factory. It is in Honolulu’s Chinatown which is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States. It is a business that has been around maybe 70 years to my understanding, under its current ownership about 40 years. The “look funn” in this case is the dish: it is a take on the traditional dim sum dish the cheung fun which literally means “intestine noodle” because it looks like an intestine. It is usually a noodle that is wrapped around some sort of filling, in this case at Ying Leong, the bits of morsels are mixed in with the noodle mixture. So the rice is put into the funnel — pulverize, liquefied — into what is going to become the noodle before it spread on the pan. That is when the toppings go in. Then it’s sort of maneuvered around the pan and set to steam. They solidify into the noodles and then they’re wrapped up. I’m super excited to be here and I can’t wait to eat it. “My name’s Alice.” Aloha, it’s so nice to meet you. “My husband started the business, he’s from China, too.” “He came here in 1963, before me.” “He was coming into work, to survive.” “He was single, not married, so after we met about 10 years later, we met so we got married.” You met and you fell in love? “Yeah, he’s a hard worker.” Can you tell me about the look funn? “Ok we have the plain noodles like all the other restaurants. This is like extra, for customers coming. There is chau siu, shrimp, and mushroom. The favorite is char siu.” Is that your favorite? “My favorite is mushroom.” Oh, mushroom’s your favorite. “I want to stay healthy!” But this is different then cheung fun, that’s a plain noodle wrapped with the stuff inside. “The way they make is Hong Kong style. They use flour, we use rice, so it’s a little bit thicker. So local style is like this.” And you mix the green onion and the pork, you mix it in the noodle? “The green onion is stuffed inside. It mixed the favor.” And you eat it with soy sauce? “Soy sauce, you can use oil sauce or hot chili sauce.” Well it looks amazing, I will try a little bit of each. I want to try one of the chau siu, one of the shrimp, one of the mushroom, thank you. What did you order today? “I ordered the plain look funn and I also ordered that looks fun with chau siu.” And have you been coming here for a while? “Yeah, over 70 years.” Wow. “Yeah they do the old-style. The new style, when I went to China, is very thin and they do machine. I tried this and I tried the one that was machine — it’s flat, didn’t have the taste. You know you get used to a certain type. My grandniece always loved look funn so I would bring it to her in Japan from here, and I also take it to the mainland.” Here we are look funn. So let’s try this one, this is the classic, the original. This is the chau siu. So it’s cool, so you got that really satisfying, chewy, cold, glutinous texture of that rice noodle, which I love. I love chow fung noodles, those thick broad rice noodles. And this is a similar kind of thing. It’s got those nice little red bits, slightly sweet barbecue pork, the chau siu, within the noodle, along with some of the green onion. There’s something very satisfying about it and it’s nice just like aesthetically, it’s very pleasing. lt looks like candy or something like that, just with the little colorful orange and red bits dotted throughout the white sort of glossy rice. Let’s just try another flavor, so this guy is shrimpl Great, too. Similar to the pork except it has shrimp so instead of having that sweet meat flavor you get a little bit more of that salty brine sea flavor within the rice noodle. And then lastly we have a mushroom one which Alice said was her favorite. I like that one too, you have to like mushrooms. You have to like that earthiness, that sort of wet dankness of a mushroom, which I love. The pork is great, the shrimp is great, all-in-all you absolutely can taste the difference when you have a noodle made from rice as opposed to a noodle made from flour. The composition of the rice is going to give it a chewy elasticity which you want to have, they are not dropping these noodles into vats of boiling water, they’re just putting them in a steamer for a few minutes. I don’t think you could prepare wheat noodles in the same way. Texture-wise it certainly is different than a wheat noodle. Taste-wise it’s different as well. Rice is maybe a little bit more of a blank canvas that also happens to taste sort of vaguely of something delicious like meat or onions. I really hope you enjoyed this episode of Dining on a Dime, we are in Chinatown in Honolulu at the Ying Leong Look Funn Factory. If you’d like to watch more, please click here.

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