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Also in Hanoi, though I didn't find that version nearly as palatable as the one you describe here in Laos: http://bit.ly/xFks4 BTW..that bike ride no doubt had you gasping for a big bottle of the local brew by day's end, I'm guessing?


oh what an evocative post! i also loved luang namtha, and the boat landing (though i sadly didn't stay there)...

anyway, this jelly looks very similar to sichuanese liangfen - literally 'cool' 'powder' - which can be made with a whole variety of stuff, often mung beans. there's a good description of the method in my (UK) edition of FD's sichuan cookery. oh you're making me miss asia...


Any more info about cycling around? I found Laos to be an almost perfect place to travel by bike.

Chef Basket

Thanks for this savory, soupy jelly in Laos post. The pictures are great!


Sticky’s bowl of rice cake is more like rice pastry and I think you are asking about rice flour blocks – more like the Sichuan liangfen, though maybe of different density and firmness. There was something on a link from a link on this post that led me to a post about Chiang Mai market, I am not looking at it now, but there was some discussion about Burmese Shan ‘tofu’ – albeit their own version, a sticky blob made with gram flour and which had nothing to do with soybean. Someone or you mentioned about this ‘white tofu’ that was made with rice flour and that was a block. Your Burmese readers insisted these ‘none soybean’ versions of tofu are all Burmese Shan’s but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this white tofu block is Tai Shan (or Shan Tai) originated from Yunnan and Southwest of Sichuan.
Did you try this ‘white tofu’? Was it light like jelly or dense like noodle?


I mean I've seen 3 types of rice flour 'blocks' on this blog with varied firmness: jelly, tofu (curd) and shredded noodle.


Sticky - yes! Love Beer Lao!

Hey Jessie - yes it is, but a wee bit denser. I am sure there is a connection in there.

A- we only had the resort's bikes. You know, one speed, way to short, kind of clunky. But we did OK. Prob was it really was way too hot after noon -- little shade. Then by the end of the day the burning would take hold ... smoke everywhere, thick and not so nice to breath. Would love to be back there now, when everything is green.

Thanks for reminding me of that, Katy. In Sichuan markets there are three 'jellies' -- made of rice, huangdou, and the other is konnyaku. They all seem to be more jelly-ish than this slightly denser cake. And the ones at the market in Chiang Mai are reminiscent of the ones in Sichuan. Lots of trade between southwest China, Burma, N Laos and Thailand going back a heck of a long time. Who can say who originated these things? Some might argue they were carried back and forth by Cin Haw, who were the great traders. Wld be interesting to trace the Jelly Path.

Teri Y.

This sounds like a very interesting dish. Just from the first picture, I thought it was one of those Chinese pork bones based savory broth/soup that has been boiled for many hours. But upon reading, you mentioned that the liquid was sour. Was it like hot and sour soup or even assam laksa in terms of the sourness? Would love to try it. Love anything sour!


What kind of 'smoke' everywhere? Not rubber burning is it?


Hi Teri - there was no meat in it. It was more a sort watery sour juice if you will. With a bit of flavoring from the tomatoes. I also love anything sour!

Katy -- burning the rice fields after harvest. Also it's a slash-and-burn cultivation area ... and the Chinese are tearing up the hillsides to plant rubber, so kilometers of wooded area going up in smoke. Aggravated by extreme dryness and high temps!

Account Deleted

What you are describing is Kao Laeng Fuen? It is a jelled rice dough which uses slaked lime as main ingredient. The diced cubes are then place in rice vinegar with a paste of chili and fermented soybeans similar to the Khao Soi paste. Some people then added sugar. Sadly, as interesting as I found this dish and never found it to my liking.

Dorothy Culloty

My dear friend Bill Tuffin, who lived in Luang Namtha for more than 10 years, had this to say about the jelly dish:
"What they are describing is Kao Laeng Fuen. It is a jelled rice dough which uses slaked lime as main ingredient. The diced cubes are then place in rice vinegar with a paste of chili and fermented soy beans similar to the Khao Soi paste. Some people then add sugar. Sadly, as interesting as I found this dish, I never found it to my liking. It is a roadside snack - never considered a meal.


That’s interesting it’s called Rice Liang Fen (Kao Laeng Fuen). I don’t know where it is now, but this link about that Burmese tofu , the sticky blob, when I looked at it at the time, got a name sounded like tofu nau (you know the firmer version of tofu hua) – a ‘borrowed’ word maybe, though nothing to do with soybean. The white tofu, the rice jelly block, got a name something like hsan tofu – could just mean san/shan tofu (?) maybe to distinct from the local Burmese gooey type. And this ‘jelly path’ travels to Gueizhou , this Lao Gan Ma sauce initially developed for Ms Tao’s store selling liangfen. I wonder what this ‘mak tua nao’ is in your the other post actually, the soybean disc – could be something dried ‘tou nao’, or mantou nao – if the disc is as big as a ‘head’!
If it looks 'dark', mak could actually means blackened - sun burnt/dried. Mo/墨as in black ink. Actually that could be it.

Bill Tuffin

In thinking about this dish, I have always wondered about the use of slaked lime. I have never seen any other food prepared with it. I think that the slaked lime is the gelling ingredient and the vinegar is used to counterbalance the alkalinity


Bill - slaked lime is used to prepare other foods, will have to toggle my brain a bit to bring to mind other instances.

Katy -- in Sichuan they call all of the jellies (white, yellow, brownish) 'tofu' even though they're not made with soy beans. And yes 'Shan' tofu is a ref to Shan ethnic group, to distinguish it from other tofus. The white block that is shaved is made from rice but it's a different thing -- that's Shan khao soi.
Tua nao -- tua is 'bean', 'mak' I believe refers to some sort of seasoning (I mean it's a generic term because I've heard 'mak' used with other ingredients). In northern Thailand the same disc is just called tua nao. It's soy beans that are seasoned or not with chili (or other things), fermenented, and then flattened/shaped into discs and sun dried. Before you use them you grill them, then break them into pieces/pound them into powder and add them to dishes, cooked or 'salads'. In N Laos they're sometimes just grilled and eaten as is, with a dip or not. They're wonderful, more umami in one bite than you could ever imagine, nutty, very rich. It's a taste that cannot really be duplicated, although good-quality fermented bean paste comes close.


皮蛋 /Century old egg may have used slaked lime to get that jelly like texture.

Tofu, as you know, originated from the Northern China – in the old literature, it was described as a thick yogurt made with goat milk. Fu means fermented. Though nowadays, tofu is simply used as something soft and jelly like. Reminded me of the traditional almond tofu, which is nothing made with soy beans.

I am sure you are right about ‘mak’ being a generic term for seasoning since you’ve seen them used in that part of the world. Don’t know where I got it from now, I just sort of remember a ‘dialect’ spoken somewhere in SE Asia, that either mak, mok or bak, bok meant ‘black’ – in ‘cooking’ terms, it meant the type of cooking , something burnt, charcoaled, smoked or grilled(!) and the like. Mo 墨 in Chinese is black, the only time I know it used with another color is green ,and together墨绿 means the mustard green color. Dried mustard green leaves look almost as dark as black. And if you see in China/Taiwan, or perhaps in a ‘Chinese territory’ ‘black tomato’, it simply means green tomato – it can look so dark greened that it is called black. That’s why I sort of wondered on your Shan pickle post, if the Burmese term for it ‘mohn-nyin jin’ could have been derived from ‘mo-lu zi’ – literally ‘mustard green pickle’. Pickled/preserved can be zi漬 or jiang 酱。 The only other ‘pickle’ I know that in tradition use glutinous rice is Korean, not saying there is a connection anywhere but pickled vegetable in Korea is called Jangajji/ changatchi (Wikipedia) which may have derived form jiangzi as in the above Chinese ‘words’. There are many Korean dishes named with something like jae or something, that may also be associated with these Chinese words.

The other ‘mak’ I am aware of is of course ‘mak cai’ 荬菜,full terms ‘fu mak’ (fu is bitter as in ku,苦荬). It’s that long thin saw edged leaves that has a distinct bitter taste. In Taiwan, it is known as ‘goose cai’ as it was used to feed goose. A Hakka ‘peasant plant’. It’s not known to be used in cooking back home, but is used in SE Asia, stir fried with meat and stuff.


Bill -- a few uses for slaked lime/calcium hydroxide in foods/food processing:
-to make century eggs, as Katy notes above
-to soak dried corn and make the husk easier to remove before grinding into masa harina
-in cane sugar processing
-to make cao lao noodles, a central Vietnamese specialty:

And many more I'm sure! The lime must be added to firm up the jelly.


That's an interesting article about cao lao, Robyn. Perhaps you should re-link it to EA facebook page. I would not have known about it if not seeing it here. Like it when you re-link earlier articles/posts before 'my' time. :-)
Just one thing - this name cao lao, is it supposed to be Chinese 'words'? (gift to mouth), I can't relate them to Chinese words of that meaning.


Hi Robyn,

This dish is known as 'klang fin' in the United States. The Iu-Mienh girls make it on a daily basis. I'm Laotian and I love this stuff. Not sure the origins of it, though.

The 'klang fin' is made by mixing regular flour, water and a small amount of limestone. It is cooked on a stove over medium heat for about half hour. It can either be poured into a pan to cool or using a spoon to form into a dumpling and placed into a bowl of ice cold water.

The pepper sauce consists of roasted peppers,garlic, thin slice of ginger and 'dop say' (fermented beans). It's mashed into a paste and mixed with chopped cilantro and a little of boiled cherry tomatoes to make the sauce a little less pastey.

The broth usually consist of tamarind paste and cherry tomatoes. Or sometimes plain water works. The condiments usually consist of tamarind powder, mgs and salt.

Hope this helps! BTW, you should visit Savannakhet, Laos. It's a great city and half hour from my parents' village.



Hi Joy - wow, thanks for all this wonderful info! So is "klang fin" Lao, or lu-Mienh, or...?


Hi Robyn,
"Klang fin" is a Iu-Mienh dish. Iu-Mienh are small tribes that lives in the hills of Laos, Thailand, China and Vietnam. I never had it before until a couple years ago when one of my Mien friends made it for me. Hope this helps!


Ny Saechao

I just made this dish tonight while on the search engine if it's discovered in the internet yet. The "bean paste" is very special and you won't be able to find it around the average Asian market, because it originates from the tribal Mien communities (we're not very industrial). But it's one of my favorite dish. There are three different styles of the gelatin. There are two different style of shape. One involves using a spaghetti-like strainer and directly pouring it into cold water. The other involves pouring it into a mold/cutting it into cubes.

Diana Lee

Klang Fen ... definetly one of my favorite staple dishes to fulfill my spicy and sour cravings...tamarind, one of the special ingredients in the tomato base broth and the fermented soy beans (the chili paste). A mienh dish for sure... all my mienh friends make this dish and only the older generations know how to make the special bean chili paste. Still a summer favorite!


This dish is Liang Fen, or also know and Kliang fen.
It's is typically made with rice flour, lime stone past, and water. It also comes in noodle form.
The paste, is fermented bean paste with Thai chili peppers, and cilantro (preferably coriander/matured cilantro)
The broth contains tomatoes, and tamarind powder, and sometimes hibiscus flowers to give it a darker red color.

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