Vietnamese rice noodle rolls wrapped around grilled pork. [Photograph: Elizabeth Bomze]

Cheong fun, or Cantonese steamed rice rolls, is my holy grail of dim sum dishes, which makes its Vietnamese cousin, bánh cuốn, my default appetizer when I go for a bowl of pho at Pho Hoa.

The Chinatown branch of this remarkably solid franchise is one of the few places in town that serves this street food staple ($6.50), and they do the mother country proud. A little sticky with a tender chew, the steamed rice flour batter crepe is thinner and more delicate than the Chinese version; unfurl the roll and you'll see that it looks like bubbly, foggy, milky glass. And thanks to that tacky, glutinous consistency, it has just enough strength to stay wrapped around the filling—in this case, thin slabs of salty-sweet grilled pork and chopped scallion greens. (Shrimp are also an option here, and minced pork with mushrooms is traditional.)

Also on the platter: a generous bed of raw bean sprouts, pickled carrot and cucumber batons, a confetti of crispy fried onions sprinkled overtop, and a bowl of tangy-sweet-salty nuoc cham for dipping.

Pho Hoa

17 Beach Street, Boston MA 02111 (map)

About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Associate Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.


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