These steamed rice noodles, native to southern China, are relatives of the noodle rolls called chee cheong fun — literally, "pig intestine noodles," after their appearance, not their ingredients. Often that name is shortened; ask for cheong fun at dim sum, and noodle rolls are likely what you'll receive.
Both types of steamed noodles are made from a liquid rice-flour mixture. However, because lai cheong fun aren't rolled and don't need to hold their form, they don't need as much strength or elasticity; the noodles tend to be thinner and more supple. (In retrospect, the lissome rice noodles I was served at a Chinatown breakfast cart were probably lai cheong fun, too.)
At Happy Star, each order is prepared on the spot. The rice-flour mixture is poured onto a metal sheet, which is slid into a boxy, multi-tiered steamer. Of the more than 20 available toppings, the most dear are beef stew, and curry with pork skin, at $2.50 each; scallion and parsley (shown) runs a dollar less. After a few brief minutes in the steamer, the tray is withdrawn, and the rectangular noodle is cut into strips and slid into a takeout container. For eating on the premises, there's only a narrow ledge near the window, but that's perfectly adequate; you won't be long.
Happy Star actually has two doorways, one for prepared-to-order foods like the lai cheong fun and one for baked goods and drinks; they share an awning and lead to the same kitchen. I've stopped in the bakery many times, if you include visits when the business was called Sunkiss, then Sun Light, with the same phone number. My favorite item — recently it's always been sold out by midafternoon — is a rice ball ($1) that's flaked with coconut, stuffed with crushed peanuts, and exceptionally light despite the typical glutinous texture of the wrapper.
By comparison, a thousand-year egg en croute ($1.25), as I'll call it, was a lead balloon. The pastry was tolerably flaky, and I had no quarrel with the ash-preserved egg, now greenish-black, but it was surrounded by a bizarre caramel-like paste and embittered by unidentifiable crimson intruders.
The refrigerator case is stocked with ranks of housemade drinkable desserts like basil seeds with mango (about 20 fl. oz., $3.50); others include tapioca pearls with fresh coconut, melon, mango, and strawberry, as well as a drink labeled only as "mint ice." At the very least, they'll leave a good taste in your mouth.
Happy Star Bakery
160 East Broadway (near Rutgers St.), Manhattan