The Fresh Loaf

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Alkali for making noodles

Bara1's picture

Alkali for making noodles


This is my first post here.  I was drawn here by doing a search on Kansui Water in Google.  I've been trying to find a suitable Alkali for including in a dough recipe to make Hand Pulled Noodles aka La Mian.  In China they use a compound called Peng Hui which is some kind of Ash.  It's not available in Europe so I'm looking for an alternative.  Would anybody here have  any suggestion for an alternative which would act on the dough gluten and make the dough more 'stretchy' and indeed hold together better when boiled?  Thank you for any replies.

breadforfun's picture

Hi Bara1,

You can find an article here by Harold McGee on baked soda as a substitute for lye or Jian.  Basically, it is regular baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, that is baked at a low temperature to remove CO2 + water, making it sodium carbonate, a more active alkali.  Kansui is a mixture of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate.  The baked soda has a shelf life of about 6 months to a year if kept in a tightly sealed jar.  I have used it in the water to boil my bagels with excellent results.



Bara1's picture

Thank u for that Brad.  I had in fact seen that by Harold McGee and I tried out his baked baked soda substitute today.  It did make the dough a little more stretchy but it wasn't like the Peng Hui which I've seen and indeed used myself when I was in China.  What can there be in this Peng Hui which alters the dough so much?   Today, I used plain flour with a litte corn flour.   I was suggested this dough mixture by somebody on the web.  But maybe my flour would have been better with a higher protein content.   There must be some food scientists out there who know what Peng Hui does to the gluten........

Crider's picture

This is a source for what is called Koon Chun Lye Water, however, the bottle says it is potassium carbonate and sodium bi-carbonate rather than sodium carbonate like kansui. But at only $2.99 (plus shipping), it was certainly worth a bookmark. Someday, someday, I'll try it!

There's a fellow, Luke Rymarz, who made a nice collection of recipes and experiences on making hand-pulled noodles, and I think that could be helpful to you. Basically the secret is low-gluten flour and over-kneading to actually break down the gluten. Seems to me it should be the opposite, but he's done it and I haven't!

Crider's picture

This is from Rymarz's site:

Hand Pulled Noodle Recipe #19 – with Lye Water

152g cake flour
24g all-purpose flour
1g salt
25g sesame oil
95g water
3g lye water

Just a little bit of lye water! I was surprised it uses so little.

Beka's picture

Lyewater is pretty bitter! You only need a little. I buy mine locally (in Asia) but perhaps a mixture of sodium carbonate (washing soda) and water would suffice?

Bara1's picture

Thanks for the replies so far.  trecklg, did you 'pull' the noodles as they do in some Chinese restaurants?  I don't have any problems with getting noodles to taste good or even the right's just finding a recipe that enables the dough to be stretched many times.

jameseng's picture

...I saw this post. Available at the Asian food store. But...I've not been successful using it to make hand-pulled noodles. Yet.

Janet Yang's picture
Janet Yang

I tried the Koon Chun alkali water, but both times the dough became so tough it wouldn’t stretch. It was like trying to pull a rubber ball. 


grammar-antifa's picture

This is a very in-depth guide to hand pulled noodles, both alkaline and non-alkaline:

takato's picture

Thanks buddy! I really appreciate your late reply. It really set the direction for me. Cheers!

Cliff's picture

It's old 2012.

But it is worthy.  I have some Peng Hui;  the stuff they use in the Chinese noodle houses. They don't use the ash from that bush anymore because the demand is so great that there isn't enough of the bush so they came up with a compound that does it.

I ordered it from China, here is an image of the package


The thing is I don't know if it is the right stuff.  It stinks.  It smells like sewerage. It's a white powder.  It dissolves in water.  The package is right but I can't vouch for what's in it.

I tried it as per the only method I know make the dough knead the dough and rub the dissolved stuff on the dough as you work it. 

Can anyone vouch for this stuff?   Have you used it does it stink like sewerage?


Cliff's picture

Forget the alkali  or acid concoctions if you want the real deal go to Aliexpress and order a blue package of Peng  Hui.

There is a kid on  youtube who is doing it by controlling the salinity but the thing you don't see is the hours and hours he spends trying to get it right.

Get some peng Hui and  mix some with water ( there are no instructions anywhere)  take that peng hui water in a bowl to your workbench and wipe the dough with it  by wetting your hand  as you knead. 

It does not take much.  Be sparing use more water than you think  you need  (or less peng hui) when you mix it .  the stuff smells strongly and it is unpleasant but it seems not to translate to the noodles.


This is the stuff I bought

EDIT  the alibaba page keeps changing so  here is a current one 02/04/2023





It is a commercial amount this will last you until your great great great grandchildren grow old.


Little background

They used to burn a bush and used the ash.   They didn't have enough of the bush and in the  80s they were up against it what with the popularity of the noodles.  So they developed  this stuff.