Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Flushing for rice rolls.
Chef Richard Chan was on a roll heading into 2020, his acclaimed Singaporean restaurant Yummy Tummy drawing crowds to Northern Boulevard in Flushing, eager to feast on his signature Chili Crabs. Then... well you know what happened next. And when Chan's landlord refused to budge on the rent, he had to shut Yummy Tummy down.
But Chan wasn't even close to being done. He spent the summer working on ideas and experimenting with recipes for a new place, and last month the Singapore native opened Rolls Rice, a rice rolls hawker stand that offers unconventional versions of the classic Cantonese street food. And this time Chan is located just a couple of blocks from the 7 train station on Main Street, so it's even easier to check out his cooking.
Rolls Rice is set within a mini food court, and shares the long and narrow space with two other food stands. You walk towards the back and order at the plexiglass-shielded counter, and Chan and his two staffers will fix your food up right away. There's extremely limited seating inside, and nothing outside, so if you want to eat right away you could head to a bench nearby; I had mind at the Bland Houses playground on 40th Street.
Chan loves traditional Cantonese rice rolls, or chéung fán, but also wanted to stretch the dish a bit at the new place, bringing flavors from places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, and Singapore into the mix. There are seven different varieties, or "Destination Creations," on the Rolls Rice menu, each named after an appropriate airport code. The SIN, for example, is stuffed with shrimp and smothered in Chan's exceptional Singapore chili sauce.
The deeply funky HKG (Hong Kong) may have been my favorite of the bunch, the slippery rolls filled with dried shrimp, crumpled Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushrooms. Malaysian curry makes a lively appearance all over the KUL, which features chicken and potatoes inside. Taiwan has two entries, the TPE (Taipei) with braised pork, and the KHH (Kaohsiung) which is basically the same as the Hong Kong but made with gummy, glutinous rice.
All of these were delicious, so I imagine the BKK (Bangkok), with Thai style minced pork, and the ICN (Inchon), made from stir fried glass noodles, would be good choices as well. You can also invent your own "destination" if you're feeling creative. There are a few side dishes at Rolls Rice as well, two of which—Curry Fishballs and Curry Pork Rinds—can be dumped on top of your rolls for a nice boost of flavor and textural interest. The Taiwanese Sticky Rice, studded with pork bits, was a little dry and too tame, the only dud on the day.
The rice rolls here are all great and, if nothing else, Rolls Rice offers chef Chan a way to, as he puts it, "feed you real good" between full-service restaurants. Definitely stop in for an order or three the next time you're on Main Street.
Rolls Rice is located at 40-46 Main Street, near 41st Street, and is currently open on Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (718-799-0388; getrollsrice.com)