Cheung fun — often translated as rice noodle rolls or steamed noodle rolls — are a Cantonese dish frequently featured in dim sum. The noodles are steamed flat in metal trays, then folded in on themselves and topped with various condiments, including soy, peanut and hoisin sauces, sesame seeds, and Sriracha. Vendor Lai Zhang came to the United States from Kaiping, a city in Guangdong province. He says the cheung fun cart has been at its Grand Street location for 30 years; Zhang Lai has been operating it since 2015 and can be found catering to a steady stream of customers every day except Thursday.
Zhang sells two types of cheung fun; his specialty is the Guangdong version, filled with pork, beef, shrimp, or vegetables. The Hong Kong version, called chee cheung fun, is cooked plain and then topped with curry fish balls, oyster fish balls, beef tripe, or pig skin and radish.
Zhang is a member of the Street Vendor Project (SVP), a coalition working to improve conditions for the more than 10,000 street vendors working in NYC. Most street vendors are immigrants and people of color, and endure long hours and harsh conditions; many struggle to obtain a license, are forced off of streets under pressure from big businesses, and face oppressive fines for minor logistical violations. The SVP educates vendors about their rights and responsibilities, helps vendors with training and loans, and works to raise awareness of their struggles in the community and local government.Megan McGowan