Chun Gen: The Hakka-style Meat Roll from Tenom Sabah
Chun Gen (or Ken, Kien, Juan) 丹南春卷 is a unique Hakka delicacy originating from Tenom, Sabah. In the Hakka dialect, “chun” means “egg”, and “gen” means “roll”. While its Mandarin translation may seem ordinary as “spring roll”, Chun Gen is far from your typical spring roll. It is a meat roll wrapped in a delicate egg crepe, showcasing the culinary ingenuity of the region.
Meat rolls are commonly enjoyed in Hakka communities across China, featuring various fillings such as mushrooms, yam, egg crepe, tofu skin, and dried seaweed. The Hakka immigrants who settled in Tenom hailed from Longchuan County, where the version of meat roll wrapped in egg crepe prevailed. Consequently, this style became the signature Chun Gen in Tenom.
The magic begins with the meat filling, crafted with tender pork shoulder. Skilled hands go to work, pounding the meat until it becomes a pulpy mince using traditional wooden clubs. Then, a pinch of corn starch, salt, and white pepper join the mix, infusing it with irresistible flavors. But that’s not all—here’s where it gets exciting. The mince is expertly slammed onto a flat surface, again and again, until it reaches a silky-smooth consistency. Some talented chefs even incorporate fish or prawn paste, black fungus, and other tantalizing ingredients to elevate the taste. The meat paste is then carefully spread onto a delicate egg crepe and rolled into a magnificent sausage-shaped creation. To bring out its full potential, it undergoes a gentle steaming process, resulting in a masterpiece of taste and texture. And when you slice it open, you’re greeted with a mesmerizing yellow spiral pattern—a true feast for the eyes.
In Sabah, Chun Gen has garnered immense popularity, becoming a sought-after accompaniment to various soup noodles, fried noodles, and local dishes like Tuaran Mee and Wat Tan Hor. The versatile meat paste is also used to create delectable meatballs served in soups. Given its pork-based composition, Chun Gen is predominantly found in Chinese eateries throughout Sabah. When you visit Sabah, don’t miss the opportunity to savour the beloved Chun Gen.