Noodles You Should Know: Liangfen

Jiggly, wiggly JELL-O is a staple of early American desserts, persisting to this day as a favorite of the young, the old, and the boozy reveler alike. Most associate it with sweet desserts, packaged in all sorts of fruity flavors, but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, gelatin was traditionally a savory ingredient, featuring prominently in some questionable gelled salads, or for the upper class, aspics instead. Of course, there’s so much more to it than that, especially when you consider different plant-based gelling agents. Thus, whenever I see “Sichuan green bean jello” on a menu, I’ll always jump at the chance to place my order.

Better known as liangfen, it’s not actually made from JELL-O or any animal-based gelatin at all. More accurately, it’s typically made from the starch of either mung beans or green peas. It may come as a surprise when it arrives at the table in bright white, blocky rectangular lengths, stained red with chili oil, boasting a hint of green color only from scallions or celery leaves on top.

What are Liangfen, AKA Cold Jelly Noodles?

Slippery, with a short bite that’s much softer than a chewy wheat-based noodle, they’re very easy to eat, provided you can gently coax them onto your chopsticks. It can be tricky to pick up more than one strand at a time, especially if they’re slicked with a richly umami sauce. Consider them the tofu of noodles, being almost completely flavorless before soaking in a deeply flavorful sauce. Mala Sichuan peppercorns, black vinegar, pungent chopped garlic, toasted sesame seed, and red hot oil sizzling with chilies are all essential for this dish.

Make Your Own Liangfen

As a naturally, “accidentally” vegan noodle, there are plenty of excellent recipes online that need no modification. It’s incredibly easy to make and fully customizable to your tastes, in case you’d prefer a sauce with less heat or more acid.

Where Do Liangfen Come From?

Served cold, the contrasting heat of the spices is what makes it so addicting. Especially on hot summer days, it’s incredibly refreshing while making you sweat at the same time. Fittingly, the name liangfen translates to “cold starch” or “cool noodle” in English. Born some time within the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912,) it began life as a humble street food in the Sichuan province, spreading quickly to proper eateries and even fine dining restaurants.

Eat Liangfen For Your Health!

For the health-conscious, there’s a lot to love about this sleek, silky treat, too. Low in calories and fat, it’s also rich in fiber and quality carbohydrates, promoting digestive health and providing a sustainable source of plant-based energy. Since these noodles are made of starch instead of wheat, they’re gluten-free and free of all major allergens.

Upon first bite, the unique gelatinous texture, seeming to melt in your mouth, grabbing your attention as something far outside the realm of western culinary creations. The interplay of flavors is a symphony of sensations; the tangy vinegar dances with the umami soy sauce, while the chili oil adds a crescendo of heat. Altogether, it’s an extraordinary noodle that should be a prominent guest at your table, too.

Soup To Nuts: All About Powdered Peanut Butter

Running the entire gamut of sweet to savory, decadent to healthy, peanut butter powder is an essential ingredient that belongs in every nut-loving kitchen. Once a rare curiosity, it now sits prominently in mainstream markets, positioned as a baking staple, protein powder, or both all at once.

Given the sudden abundance of accessible options, I can’t help but wonder: Why is everything so sweet? A casual search will pull up a fair number of results, but the hits quickly become redundant. Another powdered peanut butter cookie, another peanut butter powder truffle, another powdered peanut butter energy bar, another peanut butter powder protein shake; where’s the creativity? Where’s the spice and salt?

Naked Nutrition: Peanut Butter Powder With Nothing To Hide

Coming in to help fuel all new culinary inspiration, Naked Nutrition has just launched a new line of flavors for their best-selling Powdered Peanut Butter, including Organic, Chocolate, and Sugar & Salt. My focus immediately landed squarely on the Organic option for its brilliantly simple one-ingredient label. All you get are fresh, dry, finely powdered, roasted peanuts. Less is more here, giving you more protein and fiber per tablespoon than the conventional nutty spread.

The Basics: What Is Peanut Butter Powder?

Let’s take a step back here to better understand what we’re working with. Peanut butter powder is made by removing most of the oils from roasted peanuts and then grinding them into a fine powder. The result is a versatile and concentrated form of peanut butter that packs a punch of flavor without the typical high fat content. All that’s left is pure, nutty goodness that can be reconstituted with water or other liquids to create a spreadable, creamy texture. The best part? It’s a great alternative for those looking to reduce fat and calories in their diet while still savoring the unmistakable taste of peanut butter.

Peanut butter protein powder is a term that can be used interchangeably. The same thing goes for peanut butter flour, but only if there are no other added sweeteners, stabilizers, or flavors.

Peanut Butter Powder In The Kitchen

While most existing recipes for peanut butter powder focus on the sweeter aspects, I prefer to bring out the savory notes, especially with Naked Nutrition’s Organic Powdered Peanut Butter that has zero added sugar. In fact, there’s zero added anything; it’s just peanuts, period. When you want a versatile ingredient that can quell any cravings, kick-start a healthy meal, or help you explore new cuisines, this one will never disappoint.

Peanut Soups and Stews

Soup is always in season, which is why it’s always at the top of my list when I don’t know what to make for dinner. There’s a rich history of traditional peanut soups and stews in many cultures, too. Consider:

Peanut Sauces

Don’t forget about all the saucy options that use peanut butter as a rich and creamy base.

Peanut Coatings and Binding

I’ve used powdered peanut butter to make some of the crispiest peanut-crusted tofu you could ever dream of, and that same trick could be just as easily applied to any of your favorite proteins or veggies.

In baking, it’s an excellent gluten-free binder and emulsifier, keeping dough cohesive and batters smooth.

How To Substitute Powdered Peanut Butter

Any recipe that calls for standard peanut butter can be upgraded with peanut powder. For every tablespoon of standard peanut butter, simply use 2 tablespoons of powdered peanut butter plus 1 tablespoon of water or other liquid. This is a great opportunity to add more flavor, too. You could amp up the umami with mushroom stock, enhance the creaminess with coconut milk, or add a splash of acid with fresh lemon or lime juice.

The benefit of using peanut butter powder is that it’s much easier to incorporate, blending in effortlessly whereas conventional paste tends to clump if you just drop in a spoonful. Additionally, it’s an excellent way to thicken a thin broth instead of adding nutritionally vapid white flour or starch.

Nuts for Peanut Powder

It’s a good thing that Naked Nutrition’s Organic Powdered Peanut Butter comes in such generous containers; as soon as you break the seal, you’ll want to add it to every snack and meal. Trust me, you’ll have no trouble powering through the first pack, so stock up when you get a chance!

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Naked Nutrition. My opinions cannot be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Oat-standing Granola

Great granola is a timeless staple.

Always humble, all it takes are some oats and creativity to make a treat that suits all cravings, needs, and constraints. When you hit upon a formula for thick, resoundingly crunchy clusters, gently kissed with sweetness, you won’t soon forget it. That’s why I still think of the granola by Belinda Leong from b. patisserie. Though not naturally vegan, I recall she created a special, secondary version to accommodate while working an event in San Francisco, so many years ago.

Was I the photographer? Prep cook? Stylist? Was this an awards ceremony? A press event? A cooking demo? I honestly can’t recall. The actual event has become lost in the morass of memories that blur and blend in my mind. What’s important is that I know this was the only vegan option there, so naturally, it captured my attention.

Exhibiting remarkable balance for such a simple breakfast treat, it’s the attention to detail that amplifies flavors and textures beyond their simple beginnings. Remarkably light, airy, shatteringly crisp, the texture is really what makes it so special. It’s otherwise a simple affair, accentuated by toasted sliced almonds, making it buttery like a delicate almond croissant. Notes of toffee, caramel, and malt intertwine, crafting a taste sensation that could just as well top an elegant parfait or sundae. Granola isn’t just for breakfast anymore.

Make It Your Own

Adapted from the recipe found on Food & Wine, this essential formula is ripe for experimentation.

Consider adding any of the following, to taste:

  • Dried fruits, like raisins, chopped dates, cherries, blueberries, or chopped apricots
  • Seeds, like pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds
  • Spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, allspice, or cloves
  • Chocolate chips or chunks
  • Coconut flakes or shreds

Some easy ideas for substitutions include:

  • Instead of almonds, swap out part or all for pistachios, cashews, pecans, or walnuts
  • Instead of brown sugar, use date sugar or coconut sugar
  • Instead of vegan butter, use coconut oil
  • Instead of maple syrup, use agave nectar or vegan honey

If this granola looks incredibly simple, even basic, you’re not wrong. As a celebration of quality ingredients and the skill it takes to bring the best out of each, that’s part of the appeal.

Continue reading “Oat-standing Granola”

Boldly Austin At Bouldin Creek Cafe

If there’s one establishment that embodies the Austin ethos of “keeping it weird” while uniting a diversifying community that would otherwise pull in opposite directions, it’s Bouldin Creek Cafe. Since its inception in 2000, this quirky artist’s enclave has captured the hearts of locals, cementing its place in the city’s sociopolitical map. For travelers, it shines as a welcoming beacon, from early morning to late night. Given top billing in any credible guidebook, it’s a worthy pilgrimage for vegans and food enthusiasts from around the world.

Bouldin Creek Cafe left a lasting impression on me from the first time I visited Austin, many years ago. I’ll never forget that meal shared with friends following Vida Vegan Con, watching everyone pull out their cameras as the orders arrived, feeling like I finally found my tribe. It was the first place I came back to after moving in, with pots and pans still packed away, cupboards yawning open with not a single can of beans to share. It’s where I’ve had countless dates, business meetings, solo meals, celebrations, and somber evenings. If you’re part of my life in a physical sense, we have or will inevitably spend time here together.

Always vegetarian with equivalent vegan options whenever a dish isn’t already plant-based to begin with, it’s one of the last surviving “old school” kitchens that makes veggie burgers from scratch- and actual veggies. There’s no Impossible or Beyond, no shortcuts or cheap tricks. Personally, I can’t leave without ordering something with tofu scramble, a classic take on crumbled and sauteed curds, thickly encrusted with cheesy, umami nutritional yeast. Making a truly exceptional tofu scramble is a dying art, but it’s alive and well here, executed at the highest level.

The beauty of the iconic tofu scramble is that it’s wonderful as a standalone entree, and even greater as part of larger plate. Zucchini migas folds fresh veggies and tortilla chips in with a spicy salsa, while Joe’s smokin’ “omelet” incorporates sauteed spinach with chipotle-pecan pesto. Sides aren’t a side thought, especially when it comes to the blueberry cornbread, served up in sizeable slabs so sweet and tender, you could easily satisfy cake cravings for breakfast.

More than once, I’ve witnessed rigid eaters soften their stance toward vegan food, embracing a meal without meat as a welcome change of pace, rather than a sacrifice. I’ve seen strangers connect over cashew queso, pups on the patio begging for hash browns, toddlers gleefully stuffing fistfuls of pasta into their mouths while somehow managing to wear the majority of it. Students hunch over coffees in tables next to couples dressed to the nines, kicking off a night on the town. It’s truly the crossroads of humanity, the universal answer to: Where should we eat today?

Bouldin Creek Cafe. It’s always the right choice.