Slippery jelly noodles seasoned with a mouthwatering dressing, Liang Fen is a refreshing dish with great texture. It only takes a few minutes to make it from scratch.
Update Notice: This is a revised version of my previous post. It includes more tips, new images and a video.
What is Liang Fen
Liang Fen/凉粉 (Mung Bean Jelly Noodles) is a humble cold dish popular in the western regions of China, such as Sichuan, Yunnan, Shannxi and my home province, Gansu.
Purely made of starch, it has a jelly-like texture: silky, slippery and springy. Having a plain taste on its own, it’s often served with a tangy, spicy sauce.
It’s one of my favorite childhood foods. I often had it after school at street stalls. Cool noodles coated with a mouthwatering dressing, it’s such a tasty and refreshing treat! Years ago, I learned from my mum how to make it from scratch.
It’s incredibly simple to make: heat up the mixture of mung bean starch and water until thick. Leave to cool and firm up in the fridge. Cut into noodle strips. Season with a savory dressing.
To ensure you a great result, I’d like to emphasize a few top tips:
- Use mung bean starch or pea starch
- Follow the 1:7 starch water ratio
- Do not overheat the water
- Season with good quality chili oil
Here are what you need for making this Liang Fen dish:
- For the jelly: mung bean starch and water
- For the dressing: light soy sauce, black rice vinegar (e.g. chinkiang vinegar), sesame oil, chili oil, garlic, scallions and fresh chili (optional).
Mung bean starch
Known as Lü Dòu Fěn/绿豆粉 in Chinese, mung bean starch is a fine white powder made from mung beans, a type of legume widely used in Chinese cuisine (Think bean sprouts). When mixed and heated with water, it turns into a thick paste. Once cooled down, it then solidifies into a piece of jiggly, slippery jelly.
You can find mung bean starch in Chinese/Asian stores in the flour and starch section (What I used is a Thai brand shown in the image above). Do not confuse it with other types of starch, such as cornstarch, potato starch, sweet potato starch, tapioca starch, etc. Although similar in appearance, they don’t work for today’s recipe.
SUBSTITUTE: A less common type of starch, pea starch (Wā Dòu Fěn/豌豆粉), would make a perfect replacement if you’re lucky enough to find it.
Prepare the jelly
The starch water ratio
Once you know the perfect starch water ratio, it’s hard to fail in making the perfect Liang Fen. You can use any cup or bowl to measure, as the ratio is by VOLUME (not by weight):
- 1 part of mung bean starch
- 7 parts of water
For example, in today’s recipe, I use ½ cup of starch and 3½ cups of water to produce 2-3 servings of Liang Fen. You may alter the ratio slightly depending on your preference for firmness. But I don’t recommend you change it dramatically.
1. First, mix the starch with a small amount of water in a bowl.
2. Stir well until there are fully combined.
3. Heat the remaining water in a saucepan. Once you see lots of bubbles appearing on the bottom and the side of the pan, turn down the heat to the low.
4. Pour the starch mixture into the pan.
🛎 N.B. It is crucial to add the mixture at the right moment. Don’t wait until the water comes to a full boil. This could cause complete failure.
5. Keep stirring with a spatula for 1-2 minutes depending on the heat. When you see big air bubbles coming up to the surface and the mixture becoming thick and sticky but still runny, remove the pan from the heat (check the video below for the desired consistency).
6. Pour it into a heat-proof container.
7. Leave to cool on the counter uncovered (it takes 1-2 hours depending on the room temperature). Once it becomes completely cool, cover with a lid or cling film and transfer to the fridge.
8. In 2 to 3 hours, it will turn into a block of white, firm jelly. Put one hand over the jelly then flip the container. It will come out easily and neatly. Transfer it to a clean cutting board.
Shape the noodles
There are two ways to turn a block of Liang Fen into noodles.
OPTION 1: Use a knife to slice the block into pieces, then cut them into noodle strips. Please feel free to choose your preferred size and thickness (Apart from the noodle shape, you may simply cut the block into cubes to serve).
OPTION 2: Use a special jelly scraper (known as Liáng Fěn Guā Zi/凉粉刮子) to shape round-shaped noodles (watch the video below to see how it works). I bought mine in China. I see it’s available online when searching the keyword “jelly scraper”.
Season the dish
Although having a wonderfully silky, slippery texture, Liang Fen tastes rather plain on its own. So it’s important to make a tasty dressing to serve it. There isn’t a set formula as regional variations exist, as well as home cooks’ own creations.
The seasoning combination in my recipe involves a handful of common Chinese condiments, plus a few aromatics to enhance the taste. Garlicky, tangy and spicy, it’s my favorite flavor profile for refreshing cold dishes like this one.
To make it stand out, the key is to use good quality chili oil/sauce which doesn’t need to be very hot but is highly aromatic. If you haven’t tried my homemade chili oil recipe, feel free to use other spicy sauces to substitute, such as spicy black bean sauce, either homemade or commercial ones like Laoganma.
You can store Liang Fen in the fridge for up to 3 days. Keep it in the container and cut it right before you serve.
Please be aware that the longer you leave it in the fridge, the firmer and more brittle it will become (water tends to “escape” from the jelly over time).
So if you’re to serve it after more than 1 day, slightly increase the water volume needed for the recipe when cooking it.
A: Plain Liang Fen is gluten-free but the dressing in this recipe contains wheat. To alter it, replace regular soy sauce with gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, and use fresh lime juice as a substitute for black rice vinegar.
A: Yes! In my home province Gansu, Liang Fen is also stir-fried with garlic, dried chilies, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. In this case, cut the jelly block into cubes, rather than noodles. Follow the regular stir-fry technique to cook.
A: They’re similar. Both of them are made of mung bean starch. Mung bean thread noodles come in dried form and require soaking and cooking. You can season them with the same dressing to make a cold dish, or use them to make Sichuan Vermicelli Stir-fry or Garlic Prawn with Vermicelli.
Other vegetarian dishes
Looking for more tasty vegetarian/vegan dishes? Check out these recipes:
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Liang Fen (Mung Bean Jelly Noodles, 凉粉)
BEFORE YOU START
For the jelly noodles
- ½ cup mung bean starch - see note 1
- 3½ cup water - divided
Make the jelly
- In a bowl, mix mung bean starch with ½ cup of water until fully integrated.
- Heat up the remaining 3 cups of water in a saucepan until you see lots of bubbles start to appear at the bottom (Keep a close eye to avoid overheating it).
- Turn the heat to low. Stir the starch mixture well, then pour into the water. Stir constantly with a spatula for 1-2 minutes.
- When you see big air bubbles coming up to the surface and the mixture becoming quite thick and sticky but still runny, remove the saucepan from the heat (watch the video below for reference).
- Pour the translucent mass into a heat-proof container. Leave it to cool uncovered. Then cover with a lid and store in the fridge until it turns into a block of white, solid jelly. It takes 2-3 hours.
Cut the noodles
- Put one hand over the jelly, then flip the container upside down. It will slide off onto your hand easily. Put the block onto a chopping board.
- Use a knife to cut the jelly into noodle strips of your preferred thickness (See note 3 for an alternative method). Transfer them to a serving plate/bowl.
Season the dish
- In a small bowl, mix minced garlic, light soy sauce, black rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil and salt (if needed). Pour it over the jelly noodles. Top with scallions and fresh chili (if using).
- You can keep the jelly refrigerated for up to 3 days. Slice and season whenever you want to serve the dish.
- Be aware that the jelly will become firmer and more brittle over time. So if you plan to serve it after more than 1 day, increase the water by ½ cup when cooking it.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.