Mung Bean Curd with Chili Oil Sauce (Liang Fen, 凉粉)

5 from 1 vote
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A traditional Chinese street food that is bursting with the flavors of a savory spicy sauce, liang fen is just what you need to bring a taste of China to your own kitchen this weekend! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Liang fen close up

If you ever have the chance to visit China, liang fen is a must-eat street food. It’s a dish of slippery mung bean jelly with a wonderful savory sauce, most of the time with aromatic chili oil. Depending on the region, the way of making and cutting the bean curd and blending the sauce may be slightly different. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re all so full of flavor and so delicious that you’ll crave more as soon as you finish!

Chinese mung bean curd with chili oil sauce

The Xi’an Famous Foods Cookbook

Today, I’m sharing the liang fen recipe from the Xi’an Famous Foods cookbook by Jason Wang. In case you haven’t heard, Xi’an Famous Foods is a restaurant chain of fast casual-style Chinese restaurants in NYC. 

It’s very impressive to me that they are one of the few restaurants serving truly authentic Northwestern Chinese dishes and they’ve made it wildly popular. Different from the usual takeout dishes you usually see in Chinese restaurants in the US, they serve boiled lamb dumplings, cumin lamb noodles, and Northern-style pork burgers (Rou Jia Mo). These dishes are lesser known outside of China but they’re the type of dishes I ate growing up. I feel grateful that Jason, the owner of Xi’an Famous Foods, brought this real-deal regional food to New York and made it into a huge trend.

The latest cookbook by Jason brings the most popular flavors of northwest China to the rest of the world. It’s filled with recipes for the signature dishes of the region, with some cultural perspective from Jason. I highly recommend the cookbook, no matter whether you’re looking for an immersive cultural experience or just want to put a few authentic Chinese dishes on your dinner table.

Homemade bean curd with Xi’an Famous Foods cookbook

What is Liang Fen

Liang fen is one of the many incredible recipes you’ll find in the pages of this fantastic book. 

To describe liang fen, it’s a bit like big fat noodles that are made from strands of bean jelly. They’re usually semi-translucent and are topped with a delightful savory chili-oil based sauce with some fresh, crunchy garnishes. They’re a bit slippery to grab with chopsticks but the refreshing texture is a lot of fun to eat. 

This liang fen recipe is hot and spicy yet soothingly cool, an ideal treat for summertime, yet something you’ll want year-round. As Wang puts it in his cookbook, “It’s (Liang Fun) what I would consider junk food, except tastier than a bag of Doritos (there, I said it).”

Chinese mung bean curd made from Xi’an Famous Foods cookbook

Ingredients

What’s great about liang fen is that this cold noodle dish doesn’t contain any wheat. It is usually made from rice or bean starches so if you’re gluten-free, you can happily and safely enjoy liang fen. It really does put the “fun” back in food!

Mung bean starch

This recipe uses mung bean starch to make the noodles (or bean curd). Mung bean starch is a very common ingredient in many Asian recipes, so you will be able to find it easily in most Asian markets. You can also purchase it from Amazon.

Mung bean starch package

Homemade chili oil

The chili oil is a key ingredient in this recipe, so I highly recommend making your own

Cooking process

Making Liang Fen at home is easier than you think, although it does require a bit of planning because the bean curd takes some time to cool.

  1. Fully dissolve the mung bean starch in water
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and then pour in the dissolved starch
  3. Stir and cook until it thickens
  4. Pour the starch mixture into a container and let it cool off
  5. Once cooled, the starch will congeal and you can cut it into whatever shape you like
  6. Serve the starch at room temperature (or chilled) with sauce
How to make liang fen step-by-step

How to serve and store

Liang Fen is a street food that you can snack on at any time of the day. You can also serve it as a cold appetizer as part of a big meal, since you can make it ahead of time. 

Once it’s been made, the mung bean curd will stay good in the fridge for a couple of days. In China, street vendors always mix the sauce right before serving it. But you can totally mix everything together ahead of time and serve the dish later.

Liang fen served with chili oil

Afterthoughts

The recipe is from Xi’an Famous Foods cookbook by Jason Wang, but I did double the sauce. Since Jason compared this dish to Doritos, I figured I might as well go all-in 🙂

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A traditional Chinese street food that’s bursting with the flavors of a savory spicy sauce, liang fen is just what you need to bring a taste of China to your own kitchen this weekend! {Gluten-Free adaptable, Vegan}

Mung Bean Curd with Chili Oil Sauce (Liang Fen, 凉粉)

5 from 1 vote
A traditional Chinese street food that is bursting with the flavors of a savory spicy sauce, liang fen is just what you need to bring a taste of China to your own kitchen this weekend! {Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make the dish gluten-free, use rice vinegar (you might need to use a bit more) to replace the Chinkiang vinegar.
This recipe is from Xi’an Famous Foods Cookbook by Jason Wang. I made small changes based on my personal preferences, such as increasing the sauce and using cucumber instead of peppers to serve with the bean curd.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: street food
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Curd

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic , sliced
  • 2 tablespoons homemade chili oil , including the oil and the chili flakes, or to taste
  • homemade black bean sauce (*Footnote 1) (Optional)

Toppings

  • Chopped cilantro and/or green onions , for garnish
  • A handful of shredded cucumber (Optional)

Instructions

  • Add 2 1/2 cups of water to a medium-sized pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Then turn the heat down to a simmer.
  • In a small bowl, combine the mung bean starch and 1/2 cup of water. Stir until the starch is fully dissolved.
  • Prepare a rectangular or square baking dish that can hold at least 4 cups of water but is small enough, so the mixture is at least 1” (2.5 cm) thick. (*Footnote 2)
  • Slowly pour the mung bean mixture into the simmering water, while stirring gently with a ladle or a whisk. Continue to stir until the mixture in the pot starts to thicken and small bubbles start to form. It should start turning somewhat translucent. Simmer for another 6 to 8 minutes while stirring, until the mixture thickens further, like a thick sauce texture. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  • Let cool at room temperature until solidified. It takes about 2 hours if you use a shallower dish, but up to 3 or 4 hours if using a deeper dish. Once congealed, you can store the jelly covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To serve

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, stir to mix well.
  • Place a large cutting board over the baking dish and flip it. Jiggle the dish slightly so the jelly falls onto the cutting board. Slice the jelly into 1/2” (1 cm) by 2 1/2” (5 cm) sticks, or any bite-size shapes you prefer.
  • Transfer the sliced mung bean curd into serving bowls, drizzle with a few spoonfuls of the sauce, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Notes

  1. The black bean sauce is totally optional because the dish tastes great without it. If you happen to have homemade black bean sauce, you can add 1 to 2 teaspoons to further boost the flavor of the sauce. It also thickens the sauce a bit so it will coat the mung bean curd better.
  2. I find that it’s easier to remove the mung bean curd from the baking dish if dish is made of glass. Alternatively, you can also use a heat-proof container that is large enough.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 195kcal, Carbohydrates: 31.7g, Protein: 0.6g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 607mg, Potassium: 28mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 3.2g, Calcium: 11mg
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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Lucie Marcq says:

    5 stars
    As always, fabulous recipe. I added stir fried veggies under it & it was WOW!

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