Springy noodles seasoned with a tangy, spicy, savoury sauce, Liang Pi (Cold skin noodles) is one of the most popular street foods in the north-west of China.
A few days ago, I chatted with my friend Heddi (blogger of Cuisine Helvetica) about childhood snacks. Her memories involve lot of sweet treats, whereas mine are all about savoury food. I told her that after school I often ran to a little street food stall with my friends and spent my pocket money on a bowl of Liang Pi (凉皮, aka cold skin noodles), a tangy, savoury, cold dish available all year round in my hometown. It was very satisfying!
Unusual noodles with springy texture
Although translated as “cold skin noodles” in English, Liang Pi is very different from regular noodles. The mixture of flour and water is steamed into a thin “pancake” then cut into strips. Springy and elastic, Liang Pi has a very unique and appealing texture.
As a popular street food in north-west regions of China, Liang Pi has numerous versions in terms of flour type (wheat or rice), preparation method and sauce. You could easily find two different types of Liang Pi in two neighbouring towns. Local debates about which one tastes best are endless. For me, they are all scrumptious in their own way and I always enjoy searching for new inspiration on how to prepare it in my own kitchen.
The traditional “dough rinsing” method
The most common type of Liang Pi is made of wheat flour. Traditionally, a very particular method is applied in preparation: 1. Make a dough with flour and cold water. 2. “Rinse” the dough in plenty of water until it becomes much smaller and the water turns white (saturated with starch). Remove the dough and leave the cloudy water to rest overnight. 3. The following day, spoon out the clear water that appears on top then steam the remaining paste little by little in shallow plates. I have to admit that the “rinsing” part is quite labour-intensive!
The simple way: just mix flour and water
However, don’t be intimidated by the “authentic” method! What I share with you is a simpler version which skips the entire dough making and rinsing process: mix flour and water then leave to rest. That’s it! The finished texture is almost as good as the traditional Liang Pi (just a little bit less elastic if you like). Since I started cooking it this way, Liang Pi becomes a regular treat in our Red House and I’m trying to make it part of the “snack memory” of my own children.
Tips on cooking it more efficiently
When the flour and water batter is ready to use, you need to pour it into a shallow tray (a few spoonful at a time) then leave the tray floating on boiling water to steam. To make this procedure less time consuming, I have two tips for you:
- Use a non-stick tray. You only need to coat it with a thin layer of oil for the first sheet of noodle. The following ones won’t stick to the surface (Find out how to choose the right tray in recipe box below).
- Use 2 trays to rotate. A smooth workflow of steaming and cooling will save you half of the time required (More detail on how it works in recipe box below).
A flavoursome sauce is essential
There are many ways to season a bowl of Liang Pi. However, three ingredients are indispensable: black rice vinegar, minced garlic and Chinese chilli oil (I have written a post on how to make Chinese chilli oil in which I include a comprehensive version and a simple version as well).
In addition, I like the idea of “spiced water (香料水)” which is widely used for Liang Pi in the region where I grew up (the centre of Gansu province in China). Cook Chinese cinnamon (cassia cinnamon), star-anise, bay leaf, fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorn in simmering water for a few minutes then leave to cool. This “spiced water” will give the dish a more sophisticated taste.
I also like garnishing Liang Pi with vegetables (e.g. cucumber, bean sprouts, fresh chilli, etc.) and herbs (e.g. coriander, spring onion, garlic sprout, etc.) to make it healthier and more visually appealing.
Several of my readers have noted that my blog posts made them feel nostalgic. I can definitely relate to that sentiment. But the good news is that many of my childhood (or hometown) related foods can easily be cooked at home. It always gives me great pleasure to share my recipes with you all.
Have a wonderful day!