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Liangfen or lianfen

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  • Adam Stephanides Apr 27, 2001 09:53 PM
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In the small city where I now live, which is severely lacking in good restaurants, there is a small Chinese grocery which also cooks fresh food, mainly for takeout but there is a table where you can eat. It's simple food, but good. I went there today for dinner and asked what the special was. The co-owner, who is also the cook, said something that sounded like "liangfen" or "lianfen" (she wrote it down for me, but in Chinese). I'd never heard of this, but she told me it was a cold dish for summer, real family cooking that all Chinese ate in the summer, and that I would love it, so I ordered it. What I got was a cold salad-type dish. The main ingredient was nothing I'd eaten before, in Chinese cuisine or elsewhere. It was a translucent white substance, somewhat like very firm gelatin in texture, cut up into thick julienne-like strips. It had no real taste that I could detect, so it might possibly have been tofu, but it wasn't like any tofu I'd eaten before. It was served with bits of raw garlic and green peppers in a thin brown sauce. It was very good and refreshing. I'd like to know if anyone else has heard of this, and what the main ingredient was. (I'm not sure if liangfen, or however you say it, is the name of the entire dish, or of the main ingredient, but I suspect the latter.)

--Adam

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  1. The phoenetics of what you're describing sound like what's known as "grass jelly". However, the color doesn't sound right. Grass jelly is an extract from a special kind of grass. It's mixed with some rice powder and will be boiled with herbs to create an herbal tonic or dessert sweetened with rock sugar. Grass jelly is somewhat grayish in color, and is often colored to be a blackish-brown.

    The texture is gelatin-like, so firm that it's almost crunchy. If you like this one, you should also try dai choi go, agar-agar.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Could the ingredient be konyaku? Its a gelatinous substance often cut into noodle-like ribbons thats made from a root vegetable. Its found in Japapnese cuisine but possibly in Chinese as well. Its relatively tasteless and used mostly for texture and to pick up flavors around it. This is just a guess on my part. Anyone know if this could be it?

      1. re: Stefany B.

        It was probably a species of the chinese noodles that's actually made of mung beans and peas, it also comes in very fine vermicelli form. it's transparent and after you eat it you are hungry again in half an hour :)

        1. re: J

          Oh! actually I just remembered. this is different from the thin vermicelli kind, but i'm still pretty sure it's made from green beans, you can buy it in some chinese markets in a block form that's about an inch thick. It is translucent and when you touch it it feels like very firm jello.

          hope this helps

        2. re: Stefany B.

          The Japanese eat a lot of things like that. I recently bought something called "prepared seaweed" which was sealed in translucent plastic. It looked like a chunk, but when opened, it turned out to be clear and glass-like, with the shape and texture of (fresh) udon. No flavor whatever, though. It was intended to be eaten cold. The seaweed gelatin dissolves in hot liquid.

          So if you take home some of that dish next time, drop a piece in boiling water and see if it dissolves. That will tell you if it uses seaweed gelatin or some starch.

          According to the label's nutrition information, the product I bought contains no calories. (No flavor, no calories...)

      2. Might this be agar agar? My mother always put this into a cold Chinese salad. In fact, it was the only Chinese salad she made. The salad also included strips of scrambled eggs, ham, black mushrooms, and drizzled with sesame oil. Everything was cut in strips. Does this fit the description of your salad? She never used the agar agar for anything else.

        1. Could it be jellyfish? I haven't had Chinese versions of jellyfish salad, but what you describe sounds a lot like the jellyfish I've had a few times at Korean restaurants.

          1. a
            Adam Stephanides

            Thanks to all those who have replied so far. So far J.'s second suggestion sounds the closest; the color and texture are right, anyway. It definitely wasn't jellyfish: I've had jellyfish. It might have been agar agar, though my salad was nothing like the salad elise h describes. It wasn't the color Melanie Wong describes for grass jelly, nor was it so firm it was almost crunchy.

            I'm surprised that nobody has recognized the dish yet, if it's really as popular as the grocery co-owner said.

            --Adam

            1. Liang = cold
              Fen = noodles

              This is a cold noodle dish made with translucent mung bean noodles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Samo
                a
                Adam Stephanides

                This sounds right to me. Thanks!