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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sushi or Dim Sum? Ice House's Fan Tuan Is Kind of Both

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Ice House's savory fan tuan, or rice roll. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Ice House's savory fan tuan, or rice roll.

This week's review of i-Skewers put SFoodie in a dumpling frame of mind -- specifically, a Shanghai-style sheng jian bao frame of mind -- and in our zig-zagging travels around the Avenues, looking for the puffy, pan-fried pork dumplings, we ended up at Ice House on Noriega and 20th Ave. 

In addition to a meandering menu of Canto-American rice plates and fried noodles, Ice House (whose Chinese name translates as the not-very-icy "Sun Tea House") serves complementary glasses of warm soy milk and Shanghai-style dumplings and street snacks. The sheng jian bao may not be so great here, but the restaurant's fan tuan, or rice rolls, brought us back for a second visit -- in the same week.

A street snack in Shanghai and Taiwan, fan tuan are long, hollow Chinese doughnuts rolled in sticky rice. What makes Ice House's so good is that they're made to order: 

The cooks fry the donut, press it lengthwise to collapse its hollow core, then roll it first in a layer of mustard pickle and pork floss and then in a single-grain layer of sticky rice, wrapping the two-inch roll in shrink wrap to hold it together until it makes it out to the table. (A sweet version, made with peanuts, sesame seeds, and sugar, isn't as good.) 

The crumbly, sweet-saline pork floss, combined with the salt-punch of the pickle and the oily crunch of the freshly fried doughnut, keep the fan tuan from tasting like a starch-on-starch proposition. Think of it as a Shanghai-California roll -- a rich afternoon snack that, with a glass of sweet soy milk, costs only $3.

Ice House: 1311 Noriega (at 20th Ave.), 661-6888.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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