Yin Ji Chang Fen
Time Out says
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It’s not uncommon these days for chefs to concoct a recipe just in hopes of striking social media gold. They’ll artfully arrange grain bowls or trick you into thinking a grilled watermelon is a ham—at best, the results are often more show than substance.
But Yin Ji Chang Fen’s cheong fun are popular, despite breaking a cardinal rule of internet clickbait: The delicate Chinese rice noodle rolls are white. The tissue-thin noodles won’t pop on Instagram like rainbow sprinkles or gooey, stretchy cheese dripping from a slice of pizza.
Yet the Cantonese-style dish has taken over New York with the help of this Guangzhou, China–based chain, which has eateries around the world. Opened earlier this fall, the Bayard Street location in Chinatown still commands lines out the door.
Once you’re finally seated inside the brightly lit corner space, you’ll find 16 varieties of cheong fun, ranging from $2.95 to $6.95 each. The steamed rice noodle rolls are bursting with fillings such as plump shrimp and crispy youtiao, a Chinese cruller. While we’ve tasted versions made from thinner noodles—a standard by which some people judge a kitchen’s expertise—the quality ingredients inside impressed us (think generous slices of sweet barbecue pork or fresh seafood). Unlike Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, perhaps the city’s best purveyor of cheong fun, Yin Ji Chang Fen also offers a variety of snacks and congee. For example, the fragrant curry fish balls ($5.50) add a nice counterpoint to the shareable rice porridge ($2.95–$5.95).
For diners familiar with this cuisine, the menu will remind you of dim sum palaces or humble hawker stands across Asia. Congee, and other iterations of it, is as common as chicken soup and may, at first, seem one note and unimpressive. But it turns out that the simplest of dishes can still be true hits even without all the bells and whistles.