Grass jelly
Pieces of grass jelly cut into ~1 cm cubes
Alternative namesLeaf jelly, Cincau
Place of originChina
Region or stateEast Asia and Southeast Asia
Created byHakka people
Serving temperaturechilled or hot
Main ingredientsPlatostoma palustre (Mesona chinensis) stalks and leaves, potassium carbonate, starch
Grass jelly
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese涼粉
Simplified Chinese凉粉
Alternative Chinese name
Second alternative Chinese name
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetsương sáo
thạch đen
Thai name

Grass jelly, also known as leaf jelly or herb jelly, is a jelly-like dessert originating from China. It is commonly consumed in East Asia and Southeast Asia. It is created by using Chinese mesona (a member of the mint family) and has a mild, slightly bitter taste. Grass jelly was invented by the Hakka people who historically used the food to alleviate heat stroke after long days working in the field. The dish was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Chinese diaspora.[1][2] It is served chilled, with other toppings such as fruit, or in bubble tea or other drinks. Outside Asia, it is sold in Asian supermarkets.

Nutritional value

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Unsweetened grass jelly contains, per 500 grams, 2.5 grams of protein and about 15 grams of carbohydrates, of which 0.5 grams are from dietary fiber. Grass jelly has no fat, vitamins, or minerals.


Grass jelly is made by boiling the aged and slightly oxidized stalks and leaves of Platostoma palustre (Mesona chinensis)[3][4] with potassium carbonate and a little starch for several hours. The liquid cools to a jelly-like consistency, and this jelly can be cut into cubes or other shapes.[3][5] The jelly is then mixed with syrup to produce a drink or dessert thought to have cooling (yin) properties, suitable for hot weather. The jelly itself is fragrant with a smoky undertone[6] and is a translucent dark brown or black. Food coloring may sometimes be added to make it darker.

Preparation of other variants, known as green grass jelly, requires no cooking or heating process and is made from only a mixture of leaf extracts and water. Jelly produced in this way has been described as having a leafy, neutral flavor.[7]


Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau

In China, grass jelly is considered a signature dish of the Hakka people.[2]

The name 仙草粿 (xiāncǎo guǒ) may be used for its specificity, and it translates closely to "grass jelly" in English. Although the dish is known by multiple regional names. It is sometimes called liangfen (leung fan) in Chinese, particularly in Cantonese speaking regions, but it should not be confused with the Chinese starch jelly liangfen, which is an entirely different dish.

In Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, grass jelly was traditionally served with sugar syrup. Now it is often served mixed with other ingredients, such as mango, sago, watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fresh or canned fruit, and condensed or evaporated milk.


In Taiwan, grass jelly is known as 仙草 (sian-chháu), and is used in various desserts and drinks. It can sometimes be added to boba drinks and shaved ice (刨冰). It is also commonly used in a traditional Taiwanese dessert where the jelly is melted to be consumed as a thick pudding-like dessert (燒仙草), with numerous toppings like tangyuan, taro balls, azuki beans, and tapioca. The plant is also made into mesona tea (仙草茶).


Green grass jelly
Chaokuai sold on the Sunday Walking Street market in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Es Cincau, Indonesian beverage made from Platostoma palustre plant

Grass jelly is known as cincau in Indonesian, which is derived from the Amoy Hokkien word 清草 (chhin chháu). It is also known as camcao, juju, janggelan, or kepleng in Javanese, camcauh in Sundanese, and daluman in Bali. Black jelly (cincau hitam) is manufactured as an instant powder, like other instant jellies or agar. This form is easier to use. It is made from the leaves of Platostoma palustre (Mesona palustris).

There are other plants that were used in Indonesia to make grass jelly. They are Melastoma polyanthum, known as cincau perdu,[8][failed verification] and Cyclea barbata, known as cincau hijau or green grass jelly,[9] and Cocculus orbiculatus or known as cincau Cina or Chinese green grass jelly.[10] Some plants from genus Stephania such as Stephania hernandifolia (also known as Stephania japonica) and Stephania capitata are also being used as a substitute to create green grass jelly called cincau minyak or oily grass jelly.[10]

Usually, the process of making Indonesian green grass jelly doesn't require a cooking or heating process. Mixing leaf extract and water with the addition of a period of waiting time for coagulation at mild room temperature is enough.

Indonesian green grass jelly has a distinct flavor compared to black grass jelly. It is absent of smoky flavor, almost no bitter taste, and has a mild leafy flavor. Due to its plain neutral flavor, it is usually consumed with sugar water, syrup, coconut milk, and ice.

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei

Plain grass jelly is mixed in various kinds of desserts, such as ais kacang and cendol. It is also mixed with cold soy milk and served as a refreshing drink/dessert, a drink known as Michael Jackson in South-East Asia (a reference to Michael Jackson's changing skin color and/or the song "Black or White").[11] Various combinations of grass jelly with rose flavoured syrup added to milk (bandung) are called "bandung cincau" or "bancau" for short. There is also shaved ice with grass jelly toppings. It can be green or brown.


Main article: Gulaman

Grass jelly (Philippine: gulaman) bricks are used in the various Philippine refreshments or desserts such as sago’t gulaman, buko-pandan, agar flan or halo-halo. It may be used in fruit salads or eaten with milk or tea.


In Thailand, grass jelly is known as chaokuai (Thai: เฉาก๊วย, pronounced [t͡ɕʰǎw.kúa̯j]) derived from Teochew (Chinese: 草粿, Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tsháu-kué). It is commonly served relatively plain together with ice and natural brown sugar. Additionally, it can also be served with fruits such as jackfruit, the fruit of the toddy palm or mixed with other Thai desserts.


In Vietnamese, grass jelly is called sương sáo or thạch sương sáo and the name is also derived from Teochew (Chinese: 仙草, Peng'im: siêng1 cao2). Grass jelly is chopped in small cubes and served as an additional ingredient in sweet desserts made from various kinds of beans (chè). There are two common kinds of grass jelly in Vietnam which are Platostoma palustre (Mesona chinensis, called sương sáo in Vietnamese) and Tiliacora triandra (called sương sâm; sương sa or rau câu is the name for jelly made from various kinds of algae). It is common now to eat green grass jelly (thạch lá găng) with douhua (tào phớ) and grass jelly (sương sáo or thạch đen) in the summer.


In Mauritius, the grass jelly is cut into cubes and is added into water and sugar or in syrup water to make a cold drink called "Mousse Noir" which is literally translated as "black jelly" in English.[12] The Mousse noir is of Chinese origins and is a reflection of the Sino-Mauritians influence on the Mauritian cuisine.[13] The mousse noir is well-known and well-appreciated by Mauritians.[14] It can be made at home,[12] or it can be purchased in local supermarkets where it is widely accessible.[14] The mousse noir is also manufactured by local Mauritian companies, such as Sunny Food Canners, and can be found in the original flavour or can come in different flavours; such as coffee, aloe vera, and melon.[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Grass Jelly Is Medicine and Dessert". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on 6 January 2024. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  2. ^ a b Wei, Clarissa (31 May 2016). "Real-Deal Grass Jelly Shouldn't Come Out of a Can". Vice. Archived from the original on 9 July 2024. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  3. ^ a b 仙草 (in Chinese). 台北市內雙溪森林藥用植物園編輯組. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. 本品加水與少許鹹共同煎汁,添加少許澱粉漿可製成仙草凍,是夏天常吃的清涼飲品
  4. ^ Armstrong, Wayne P. "Grass Jelly (Mesona chinensis)". Archived from the original on 19 February 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
  5. ^ Bush, Austin. "Inside the greenhouse". Archived from the original on 26 May 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
  6. ^ Wei, Clarissa (31 May 2016). "Sweet, Black Grass Jelly Shouldn't Come Out of a Can". Archived from the original on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016 – via
  7. ^ Septiawan, Yunus (2016). Kajian Perbandingan Daun Cincau Hijau (Cyclea barbata L. Miers) dengan Air dan Konsenterasi Serbuk Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) Terhadap Karakteristik Gel Cincau Hijau (PDF) (BSc) (in Indonesian). Universitas Pasundan Bandung. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 July 2024. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Melastoma malabathricum L." Archived from the original on 18 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Tanaman Obat Indonesia". Archived from the original on 13 October 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  10. ^ a b Mursafitri, Eka Budi; Kriswiyanti, Eniek; Sutara, Pande Ketut (2016). "Kinship Analysis of Grass Jelly in Regency of Gianyar, Tabanan and Badung Based on Morphological and Anatomical Characteristic". Jurnal Biologi Udayana (in Indonesian). 20 (2): 59. doi:10.24843/JBIOUNUD.2016.v20.i02.p03. S2CID 89903089.
  11. ^ "Kopi (Coffee)". Archived from the original on 15 March 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Mousse Noir : Black Jelly". Cuizine Maurice. 28 July 2016. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Chinese Cuisine". Cuizine Maurice. Archived from the original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  14. ^ a b admin (8 October 2014). "MINLEH LTD—MOUSSE NOIRE, ALOUDA…: Un succès puisé dans la force familiale". Le Mauricien (in French). Archived from the original on 9 July 2024. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Speciality Drink Archives". Sunny Food Canners. Archived from the original on 23 May 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2021.