Honolulu's Freshest Noodles
Meet the noodle makers rolling out the Island’s nicest noodles by hand... and foot!
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The only actual machine involved is the industrial grinder that pulverizes the raw long grain rice that goes into the cheung. Workers ladle the cheong onto sheet trays slathered with melted Crisco, then stack the trays into tall towers over the boiling cauldrons. A hood resembling a grain silo hangs by a rope-and-pulley system over each cauldron, and once the trays are stacked the hood is lowered and left in place for 15 minutes.
After the trays have been thoroughly steamed, the workers roll up the rectangular sheets of look funn, brush them with more melted Crisco (who says a noodle can’t be a fat bomb?), and pile them up like so many extra-long burritos. Unless a restaurant requests otherwise, the look funn is delivered like this, to be sliced into noodle widths just before going into whatever dish it’s destined for.
The factory’s output ranges from about 800 to 1,200 pounds per day, with individual restaurants placing orders for anywhere from eight pounds to more than 100 pounds of noodle at a time. You can also buy look funn over the counter, $1 for plain or $1.40 for the char siu or dried shrimp.
When the factory opened in the 1940s, it was located around the corner on King Street and it had a different name. Foo Ying Chee took over in 1968, when the original owners grew too old to continue, renamed it after himself and his father, and moved to the current location in 1973. When illness sidelined Chee last November, his wife and son stepped in to run the operation. They don’t plan to make any changes.
“A lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you get a machine to do this?’” says Mrs. Chee. “But that’s not as good. Our way makes it more tasty.” 1028 Kekaulike St., Chinatown, 537-4304.