Steamed rice rolls, aka cheung fun (肠粉), are a classic in Cantonese dim sum and are easily one of my favorite go-to orders! The best ones are soft, slightly chewy, and a bit stretchy, and there are multiple options for the filling — some of the most common being shrimp, beef mince, char siu, or Chinese fried donut. I’ll be sharing a recipe for a steamed rice roll with beef here, but the same batter can be used if you wish to substitute the filling. Here’s the recipe for my steamed rice rolls with shrimp.
Traditionally, steamed rice roll batter is made from ground aged rice, and they’re typically steamed in a large stainless steel, multi-layered tray (see this video documenting the process from Joe’s Steam Rice Roll in New York) or on a cloth (see this video). To make this recipe more accessible for homecooks, we’ll be using ingredients and tools that you can easily find at your local Asian supermarket (like 99 Ranch) or on Amazon.
The ideal batter for steamed rice rolls
My dad and I have tested so many ratios of different flours and starches to get the best texture, and we’re really happy with the final result! This recipe, which uses a mixture of rice flour (not glutinous rice flour), potato starch, and tapioca starch, yields a soft, thin, slightly chewy and stretchy roll — these are the characteristics of my ideal rice rolls. While it can’t compare to restaurants that specialize in steamed rice rolls, especially ones that have special ingredients (aged rice) and machinery (rice grinder and rice roll steaming machines), I think you’ll be pretty satisfied with this result at home 🙂
Many recipes call for a mixture of just rice flour and tapioca starch for the batter. However, I found that using just these two yielded a more firm rice roll, and didn’t have that same softness and stretchiness I craved from a really good steamed rice roll. Adding the potato starch is key in helping achieve that characteristic soft and stretchy texture. Some recipes use wheat starch, but I found that it was a bit harder to find in grocery stores compared to potato starch and opted for the more accessible option. If you prefer a more firm and less translucent rice roll without the potato starch, I recommend trying a different recipe to get the ideal ratio of ingredients.
The rice roll sauce
The sauce that tops a rice roll is usually a diluted soy sauce that’s slightly sweet and just salty enough to add flavor to the rolls but not overpower the dish. The recipe I gave below for the sauce is the simplest sauce that achieves this, but you are always welcome to add aromatics like garlic, ginger, or spices. So much work is already going into the rice roll itself — I wanted to keep the sauce simple but tasty.
After testing dozens of batches, I’ve learned a few things that I want to share to make sure you have the most success making these at home. Please read through the post and watch the video!
My best tips for getting great steamed beef rice rolls at home:
Use beef that has some fat marbling, or a 80/20 lean to fat ratio
Fat gives the meat flavor, and also helps the beef stay more tender
Try mincing the beef by hand!
Not required if you’re short on time and just want to go with store-bought ground beef, but it does provide a better texture. Whenever a Chinese recipe calls for minced meat, it’s typically minced by hand — not just because we like to do it, but it does end up tasting better!
Whisking the rice roll batter very thoroughly before adding it to the plate to steam
Whenever you mix water with a starch, the starch tends to settle at the bottom of the bowl over time. Whisking the batter very thoroughly each time before ladling it onto the plate is key to ensure you don’t end up with a cracked steamed rice roll (I definitely had a few of these)!
Letting the steamed rice roll rest before assembling
This is really, really important! The type of plate or pan you use to steam your rice rolls will affect how long you need to let the rice roll rest. If you don’t let the rice roll rest long enough, it will be too soft and gummy and won’t roll.
When I used these small rectangular sheet pans made of stainless steel, which didn’t retain heat well and cooled very quickly, I was able to assemble the rice rolls almost immediately after steaming. However, when I used a porcelain plate or glassware, which stayed hot for several minutes after steaming, I had to wait at least 4-5 minutes before assembling.
If you’d like to speed up this resting process, you can put the plate or pan on top of some cold water.
Rule of thumb: let the plate or pan rest until it’s no longer hot to the touch, then it’s ready to roll.
Tools you’ll need to make steamed rice rolls at home:
Steamer, this can be…
a bamboo steamer*, or
a metal trivet* that can hold a plate flat, or
a rice roll steamer: I haven’t tried this specific brand, but am just linking to show what a typical rice roll steamer looks like. This is similar to the tool that most restaurants use, and can help save cooking time as you can steam multiple trays at a time.
Plates or pans for steaming the rice rolls on, some options…
these are the ones I used — they were the perfect shape to fit into a bamboo steamer, and the material cooled down very quickly, which means I was able to assemble the rolls almost immediately after they were steamed.
most people have these at home, and they work great as long as you can fit it into your pan and be able to cover the pan’s lid securely. Would likely work better with a metal trivet + wok setup than a bamboo steamer.
a regular plate
I experimented with a regular porcelain plate and it totally works! The only thing you have to watch out for here is that porcelain stays hot for very long compared to the above 2 options — which means you have to let the steamed rice rolls rest on it much longer before you’re able to roll it. Otherwise, the rice roll will be too soft and gummy and won’t roll.
*you can find these for much cheaper at your local Asian grocery store
Two common issues you might encounter:
After steaming, the rice roll has cracks
Solution: This likely means the starch has settled while steaming — while you can’t fix the cracked rice roll, just remember to whisk the batter very thoroughly before ladling in the next batch
The steamed rice roll has a gummy texture, and is too soft to roll
Solution: This likely means you haven’t let the rice roll rest for enough time yet. Wait a few minutes and try again. Remember that if you’re using a plate or pan that stays hot for a long time after steaming, you’ll need to rest it for a longer period, and you should only start assembling when it’s no longer hot to the touch. If it still doesn’t work, it might mean that you didn’t steam the rice roll for long enough.
Please note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post
steamed rice rolls with beef (cheung fun)
- 3-4 oz beef (flap meat, flank steak, or ground beef with 80/20 lean to fat ratio)
- 4-5 stalks scallions
- neutral oil for brushing plate (avocado, vegetable, canola, etc.)
rice roll batter
Prepare the ingredients
- If mincing the beef by hand, first slice the beef into thin steaks, then into long strips, and finally into small cubes. Using a cleaver or large knife, mince until the pieces are about the size of ground beef or slightly larger.3-4 oz beef
- Slice the scallions thinly and set aside. You'll be adding this along with the beef onto the steaming rice roll, as well as using it for garnish.4-5 stalks scallions
- Into a small bowl, add the minced beef and beef marinade ingredients, except for the water. Mix everything thoroughly together, then add the water at the end and mix again. The water added and absorbed into the meat here helps provide a tender texture.½ tablespoon minced ginger, ½ teaspoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon oyster sauce, ½ teaspoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing), ½ teaspoon cornstarch, ½ teaspoon neutral oil, ¼ teaspoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon sesame oil, pinch of salt, dash of white pepper, ½ teaspoon water
- For the rice roll batter, mix together the dry ingredients first: rice flour (not glutinous rice flour), potato starch, tapioca starch, and salt. Gradually add the water to the batter and mix very thoroughly with a whisk. Add neutral oil, mix again, and set aside.40 g rice flour, not glutinous rice flour, 30 g potato starch, 10 g tapioca starch, 300 ml water, 1 teaspoon neutral oil, ½ teaspoon salt
- For the rice roll sauce, mix together hot water, sugar, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and oyster sauce until sugar dissolves.¼ cup hot water, 1.5 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon oyster sauce
Steam the rice rolls
- Prepare a steamer (use whatever kind you have, I’m using a pan + a bamboo steamer; a wok works well too). Fill the pan with water and place the steamer on top, and turn on the heat to high until the water starts steaming. Once steaming, reduce the heat to medium or medium high.
- Make sure that the plate you’re using for the rice rolls is clean and dry, and add it to the steamer (without any batter). Cover the pan with a lid to let the plate preheat for a few minutes.
- After a few mins, brush a tiny bit of oil all over the bottom of the plate. Mix your rice roll batter very thoroughly with a whisk, and ladle in JUST enough batter to cover the bottom of the plate to keep it thin. I usually ladle a little bit less, then tilt the pan or plate carefully to even out the batter and achieve a thin layer.neutral oil for brushing plate
- Cover the steamer with the lid, and let steam for 1 min. or until the batter has slightly set and is not liquid anymore. Lift the lid, add in and spread ~1 tablespoon of the minced beef mixture and sliced scallions. Cover and let steam for another 2-3 minutes or until beef is cooked.
- Remove from the steamer and let cool for a few minutes. This step is crucial to ensure the rice roll doesn't become a gummy mess! In the meantime, repeat steps 2-4 in this section. Make sure to periodically add more water to the pan when necessary. The whole process will go a lot faster if you have multiple plates to cycle through!
Assemble the rice rolls
- Once the plate is cool to the touch, it’s ready to assemble. Using a silicone spatula or plastic bench scraper, gently peel and lift the edges from the plate. I like to tilt my plate downwards so that gravity will naturally help it fold onto itself. I recommend watching the video to see what I mean here!
- Put onto a plate, top with the rice roll sauce, and scallions, and enjoy! If you like to eat them piping hot, you can always pop them back into the steamer for a few minutes once they’re all assembled.