Guest Post: Cold Mung Bean Noodles (Liang Fen – 凉粉)

Through the blogging world,  I got to know many talented  food bloggers. Xiaolu from 6 Bittersweets is one of them! A while ago, I stumbled upon her blog, her food look absolutely delicious and the photos are just pretty! By looking at them just make my mouth water! Blogging is just fantastic! Today, I am glad that Xiaolu is on my blog to share with us a very special dish, which I instantly want to taste and give it a go! Please welcome Xiaolu!

Years ago when I first stumbled upon Leemei’s blog, My Cooking Hut, I was blown away by the gorgeous photography and mouthwatering French and Asian recipes.  Naturally I’ve been a dedicated follower ever since. You can imagine then how surprised and excited I was to receive her recent invitation to prepare a guest post. Immediately I thought to share a recently rediscovered favorite from my childhood in China: Liang Fen 凉粉 (Cold Mung Bean Noodles). Thank you so much, Leemei, for letting me contribute to your lovely blog!

After emigrating from China to the United States at the age of 6, I retained few memories of my early years in China. But there was one exception. I recalled every bit of the delicious food, from stinky tofu to deep-fried ginger lotus root balls to cold noodles with an addictive spicy sauce. The vibrant tastes and textures of authentic Chinese food thankfully remained clear in my mind no matter how many bad experiences I had with Americanized “Chinese” food. Now that I’ve grown up to cook for myself and Asian ingredients are more available around the world, I’m delighted to recreate this refreshing noodle dish for you.

Liang fen is a dish especially popular in Northern China during the summertime. Although I translate it as “noodles,” it’s really a chilled jelly made from mung bean starch that’s sliced into noodle-like strips. Right before serving, the strips are tossed with a spicy sauce.

Depending on the region in China, this sauce may include soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic and ginger, ground Szechuan peppercorn, sesame paste, chili oil, daikon radish, and peanuts. The noodles themselves have only a mild flavor. But their cool temperature and slippery texture make them the perfect match for a spicy sauce that even makes your tongue tingle, thanks to the Szechuan peppercorn. All combined, these components make for a fun, flavorful eating experience. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

XIAOLU’S NOTES: Please note the uncut jelly needs to chill for several hours and plan accordingly. You can make the jelly up to 1 day ahead. The Szechuan pepper oil will keep, covered and chilled, for 3 months. Bring to room temperature before using.

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Liang Fen (Cold Mung Bean Noodles with Chili Vinegar Sauce)

Yield: 4-6 persons

Adapted from Gourmet, my memory, etc.

Ingredients:

Jelly:
2 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup mung bean starch powder
1/2 tsp salt

Sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (preferably Chinkiang)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp Szechuan pepper oil, or to taste (Recipe below)
1 tsp red chili oil, or to taste
1 tsp finely grated or minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp finely grated or minced garlic
1/2 tsp finely chopped fermented black beans (rinse well first)
3 large scallions (white and pale green parts only), cut into very thin shreds
Chopped green scallions, to garnish

Szechuan Pepper Oil:
2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

Directions:

To prepare the jelly: oil an 8-inch square baking pan. Mix together the water, mung bean starch, and salt until completely smooth, then bring it to a boil in a 2 to 3-quart heavy saucepan. Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick and translucent, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the oiled baking pan and cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Cover surface with plastic wrap and chill until jelly is firm, about 2 hours.

To prepare the sauce: stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, oils, ginger, garlic, and black beans in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved.

To assemble the dish: run a thin knife around the side of the pan to loosen the jelly, then unmold onto a cutting board. Cut jelly into 3 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 1/4" slices. Carefully transfer to sauce in serving bowl or dish, then gently stir in scallions. Garnish with more scallions, if desired, and serve with more Szechuan pepper oil and red chili oil on the side. Serve IMMEDIATELY. The noodles are best when the sauce coats but does not soak into the noodles so leftovers are not recommended.

To make Szechuan Pepper Oil: grind peppercorns coarsely in an electric grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Heat oil with peppercorns in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirling pan occasionally, until peppercorns turn a shade darker, about 1 minute, then transfer to a heatproof bowl and cool to room temperature. Stir before using.