Sizzle, Steam, Roll: House Chow Fun Noodles

By Caroline Hatchett | Briana Balducci

By

Caroline Hatchett
Briana Balducci

Rice noodles aren’t on your average prep list. They’re temperamental, and it’s usually easier to get them fresh wholesale. But for Chef Ryan Gorby, making chow fun noodles is essential to elevating the Chinese take-out flavors he loves and serves at Denver’s Cho77. 

Chow fun, in particular, has a low barrier for entry (once you master the technique). The ingredients are inexpensive, stable, and don’t require specialty equipment—just a heat source, hotel pan, and a steamer. Gorby gets a pan screaming hot (500℉ to 600℉) and pours in a thin layer of rice flour-tapioca batter. “It should sizzle,” he says. Gorby then steams the batter for six minutes, rolls the thin sheet out of the pan into a cylinder, and cuts it into ½-inch to ¾-inch-thick coils. 

It’s a methodology years in the making.

Gorby first experimented with chow fun at Buddakan in New York, steaming the batter over a silkscreen, alongside Lon Symensma and Dale Talde. When he moved to Denver to help open Cholon with Symensma, he worked with a Vietnamese cook to adapt the process to a hotel pan. “The idea is similar to making a crêpe,” he says. 

Gorby combines 4½ pounds rice flour (Erawan brand) and 6 pounds tapioca powder (Dragonfly brand) with 5 quarts water to form a slurry-like batter. On the stove, he thickens 8 ounces batter with 2 more quarts of water and combines the mixtures—kind of “half cooking” the batter to keep it emulsified and develop elasticity.  

“A good noodle is stretchy, chewy, soft, and not crumbly. It’s not going to break,” says Gorby. But no matter how expertly they’re made, the texture degrades once the noodles are chilled. Gorby makes just enough chow fun to last through service, and holds them at room temperature (never the refrigerator). At pick up, he stir fries the noodles with braised black pepper short rib, bunashimeji, shiitakes, and red onions. Dried pineapple and beef tendon chips are final flourishes to an iconic dish built on practiced and perfected chow fun noodles. 

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