Welcome to another post from my Xizhou Food Guide series, where I highlight different specialty foods from Xizhou, Dali, Yunnan.
Ok, I get it. “Pea jelly” sounds weird. But please don’t leave!
Liangfen is a type of savory jelly made from different types of starches, depending on the location. Boiled then served cold, the jelly is commonly made from potato, mung beans, chickpeas, or green peas. The most popular version in Xizhou is wandou, or green peas. The resulting jelly is a smooth, slightly translucent yellow mound.
Liangfen is often served in thick strips with vinegar as a side dish. However, a very popular street food here is a bowl of liangfen noodles. First, the vendor adds a generous layer of pickled vegetables (usually a lot of cabbage) to the bottom of the bowl. She then cuts off a large chunk of liangfen, slicing it into rough rectangles. Next is a small mound of prepared jiangfen noodles, thick white rice noodles, and thin yellow wheat noodles. In a perfect example of mise en place, she then quickly tops the tangle of noodles and jelly with a spoonful of eight different sauces and toppings, such as vinegar, chopped peanuts, chili oil, a sesame seed mix, and other sauces I cannot recognize. The final touch is a dollop of extra soft, smoky tofu.
All for just 7 RMB ($1!!), the result is a refreshingly cool lunch or snack. The bowl looks less pretty when I mix everything up, but it gives you a sense of the incredible variety of textures, shapes, and sizes included in the bowl:
Pea jelly itself has a pretty neutral taste; it is mostly just a smooth texture that is fun to slurp, and is a great way to soak up as much sauce as possible.
Below, you can see the large yellow mound of liangfen. This was taken early in the morning before many bowls were sold yet, but you can see the beginning knife marks from where the vendor slid off thick liangfen noodles.