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Fun Si or Dragon Mouth

by Wonona Wong Chang

Rice, Noodles, and Other Grain Foods

Spring Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(1) page(s): 13 and 23

Fun si, the noodles made from mung beans, have many names. These noodles are known as transparent noodles, shiny noodles, green bean noodles, cellophane noodles, and Chinese vermicelli. They are a common staple throughout China and can be purchased in Chinese grocery stores and other Asian markets world-wide. They are well known in the United States, Holland, England, France, India, Japan, many south sea island countries, and anywhere there are large Chinese populations.

The best quality fun si comes from the Lung Ko or the Dragon Mouth sea port. This is located on the Laizhou Bay on the northern shores of the Shandong Peninsula in the Sang Dung province in China. Noodles manufactured in other areas do not compare with the products from Lung Ko where water, know-how, and production techniques are the very best.

Fun si is marketed in transparent plastic packages of half to eight ounces. They keep well at room temperature and can be kept in your pantry for a very long time. At Lung Ko, the best quality product is made in Spring or Fall when the weather is cool and dry. When it is hot or wet, the noodles tend to stick together and spoil easily.

There are many ways of preparing this wonderful product. These noodles can be served cold with shredded cucumbers in a salad. Another popular way is in a dish common in Northern China made by combining shredded pork with fun si, golden needles (dried lily buds), and cloud or wood ear fungus. People in Shanghai like to make a meatball or fried tofu soup with fun si, black mushrooms and cloud ears. They prefer it seasoned with white pepper, ginger, scallions, garlic, and soy sauce. In Flavor and Fortune, these noodles are listed as one of the ingredients in a Spring Roll recipe (on page 6, Volume 2(4) in December 1995), in a Chrysanthemum Fire Pot recipe (on page 18, Volume 3(1) in March 1996), and in the Buddhist Delight recipe (on page 6, Volume 4(3) in the September 1997 issue).

Fun si is high in protein and easy to digest. It is a popular food for young and old alike and is popular with vegetarians who use it to increase the protein in their diets. These noodles are unique. When used in soups, they become translucent. When deep fried, they turn white and expand many times their initial size, become fuzzy, crunchy, brittle, and an excellent bed for liquid and dry dishes. They are popular at banquets and family feasts and are well known in dishes such as Ants Climbing Trees and Chicken in a Lantern. In both of these recipes, the noodles are deep fried and, as a bed, become a base for dark minced pork cooked in soy bean paste in the first entree and a white chicken breast, mushroom, egg white, and water chestnut sauce in the second one. Actually, the sauces and their ingredients are poured over the center of the fun si and together offer cross-textured, tasty, colorful dishes.
Fun Si with Cucumbers
2 ounces of fun si, also known as cellophane noodles
2 Chinese cucumbers (or Kirby cucumbers)
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon water
2 scallions
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 and 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
some prepared mustard to taste
1. Soak noodles in hot water until soft, about half hour, then drain and cut into shorter lengths. Put them on a serving dish.
2. Remove the seeds from cucumbers, shred and put them on top of the noodles, leaving a half-inch border.
3. Shred the chicken breast and mix well with cornstarch and water, then set aside.
4. Mince the scallions and toss them with the rest of the ingredients, setting aside half teaspoon of sesame oil.
5. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or non-stick fry pan. Add chicken mixture, saute for one minute, add scallion mixture and stir-fry half minute more then remove. Center this mixture on the cucumbers leaving a half-inch border.
6. At the table just before serving, add the half teaspoon sesame oil and toss the entire dish, then serve.
Note: This dish can be prepared ahead, and served at room temperature. Be sure to refrigerate the chicken mixture and put it on the cucumber/noodle platter just before serving.
Fun Si Meatball Soup
2 ounces fun si, also known as cellophane noodles
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
1 Tablespoon minced scallions
2 slices gingerroot, minced fine
1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1 and a 1/2 cups soup stock
4 sprigs cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, for garnish
1. Soak the fun si noodles in hot water for half hour then drain them and cut into desired lengths.
2. Mix ground meat and all other ingredients except the garnish and form meatballs about an inch in diameter.
3. Bring soup to the boil, add the noodles and bring it back to the boil then add the meatballs and boil once again for five minutes, then ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro and serve.
Note: Adaptations to this recipe can be found on page 106 of An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking by Chang and Kutscher. Another adaptation is to mix one-quarter to one-half cup shredded preserved kohlrabi (tsa tsai) when the noodles are added. The best preserved kohlrabi comes from the Sichuan province. Be sure to rinse it in cold running water after shredding. And, if you see a can of preserved turnip, that is most likely kohlrabi, as most are erroneously labelled. Any remaining vegetable should be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

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