Xizhou Food Guide / Liangfen (Pea Jelly)

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.

Xizhou Food Guide / Steamed Rice Rolls

Welcome to another post from my Xizhou Food Guide series, where I highlight different specialty foods from Xizhou, Dali, Yunnan.

I tried to find a good translation for this snack, but I really struggled. The Chinese name is 漾濞卷粉 (yàngbì juǎn fěn), which is literally translated to “yangbi roll powder.” What.

A lot of dim sum restaurants in southern China offer ‘steamed rice rolls,’ which are quite similar to these. Both are made from a large rolled-up steamed rice “noodle.” Whereas the steamed rice rolls in traditional dim sum are filled with shrimp or pork and served with a healthy amount of soy sauce, the steamed rice rolls in Yunnan are filled with peanut sauce, pickled vegetables, and a little chili sauce.

These rice rolls are heavenly, especially in these hot summer months. Served cold, the plain smooth noodles pair well with the acidic crunch of the pickled cabbage and savory peanut sauce. It is filling but still light.

A bonus of these rice rolls is that they are sold by perhaps the cleanest vendor in all of Xizhou. Or maybe even China. When I ordered the rolls, he first rinsed his hands, then cleaned the (already clean) counter of his stand. When I handed him the cash, he pointed to a money bucket in front of his stand – he didn’t want to dirty his hands. In a country where people don’t hesitate to hold money after holding a raw chicken drumstick, to say I was impressed is an understatement.

I will be back, my clean vendor friend.

Link Roundup / June

I’ve come across some interesting articles recently that I wanted to share. I love reading articles that other bloggers recommend, so I want to make this a monthly column. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Above is a photo from a couple days ago in Wenhai, a very rural village about an hour in the mountains from Lijiang, Yunnan. Every June, the water recedes and farmers let their cows and horses graze in the meadow. This place was honestly magical. An experience I will never forget, ever. We live on an amazing planet!


Last month, I went to a restaurant opening where I got to meet Daphne Cheng, a superhuman vegan chef who is trying to start a vegetable revolution in China. Her menus are incredibly innovative: roasted eggplant mousse with tahini cream and sweet potato caramel? seared jackfruit on toast with frisée, strawberry ponzu, and apple butter? What.

I am obsessed with this video on how bon appétit magazine‘s travel issue was taken with an iPhone. Is this really the future? I love my iPhone’s photo capabilities, but it can’t compare with my DSLR.

Interesting read on why expats in China are an endangered species. Instead of trying to get a high-paying or prestigious job, the author says young people should instead “focus on [gaining] hands-on experience working in China, developing [their] network, and enhancing [their] can do attitude.” Also, “if the job is Chinese speaking then in about 95% of cases, it means a Chinese person can do it and the job will pay according to local market price” – I could not agree more. I have had many people ask if I am learning Chinese for business reasons, but being fluent really won’t help me for that.

I was excited to see that two Philadelphia chefs were featured in the “10 rising female chefs you should know” list. One of them was Tova du Plessis, from my favorite Essen Bakery.

Philadelphia chef Peter McAndrews (who owns the famous Paesano’s, among others) said in an interview with Philly Mag that he plans on opening a restaurant entirely based off of the writings and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Turns out that (of course) da Vinci was one of the first people to “document and design smokehouses and rotisseries.” We’ll see how the food is, but what a unique concept!