Every year our church holds two potlucks, and the weather forecast showed this past Sunday to be a warm day. I was trying to think of something that would be good for a crowd, yet easy enough to make in my barely-moved-in kitchen supplies and equipment! My friend G had requested that I make the Taro Coconut Dessert, but I thought it would be too warm for that. She has some food allergies and also tries to be vegan when possible, so I tried to also keep her in mind for the dessert.

Enter memories of mung bean soup, or lu dou tang, from childhood. My mom would make this simple lightly sweetened dessert of mung beans cooked until they were ‘sandy’, served cold. Sometimes she would add grains or seeds like lotus seeds or pearled barley, but the heart and soul was the mung bean. I thought of grass jelly as a refreshing addition to the mix, then thought of chewy mochi balls for some texture. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this soup would actually be an ode to some of my most favorite Taiwanese shaved ice fillings, in a drinkable form. (Imagine trying to make shaved ice for 100+ people and keeping it cold…good luck!) To keep it simple, I’ll call this mung bean soup. The additions are recommended, but not required; even just mung beans on their own soup taste delicious.

lu dou tang

Lǜ dòu xiān cǎo tāng jiā yuán zi
Makes 8 servings

For the soup:
1 cup mung beans, washed and picked over for pebbles and such
8 cups water
Honey or sugar (rock, brown, white) to taste
1 can of grass jelly (optional)

For the yuanzi, or sticky rice dumplings
(see the Hong Dou Tang recipe for how to make them)
1 cup glutinous rice flour
6 Tbsp water


Grass jelly; find it at your local Asian grocer. I like Companion brand because they use agar instead of cornstarch.


1) Combine mung beans and water, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium to medium low heat for about 45 minutes, until the mung beans soften and fall apart. If you are eating this today, cook until you see mung bean bits mix with the water to form a thicker soup base. If you are eating this tomorrow, you can turn off the heat and let residual heat and time help thicken up the soup.

2) Add honey or sugar to taste. Cool the mung bean soup.

3) Optional- Cut the grass jelly into little bits, and add to the mung bean soup.

4) Optional- Add room temperature yuan zi to chilled soup. Because yuan zi is made from processed rice, it will harden when it’s cold. You can make the yuan zi ahead of time and soak them in water, or honey-sweetened water, then add to your cold soup when you want to serve it.

lu dou tang
The grass jelly apologize for being too dark to see 🙁

-Aiyu jelly would also be a good addition instead of grass jelly.