Also known as
China Grass, Agar Agar, Japenese Isinglass, kanten
Derived from red seaweed, this natural thickener is mainly used as a gelling agent in desserts, puddings, pie fillings, and aspics. White and semi-translucent, it is sold in packages as washed and dried strips or in powdered form. It acts as a vegetarian alternative to animal-derived gelatin.
When using agar agar in recipes, always dissolve it in hot water for 30 minutes. Once it has dissolved completely, use in recipes as required. You may also coarsely powder the agar agar sheets in a mixer and then dissolve in water for faster results. Alternatively, you can use powdered agar agar to make the desserts of your choice.
How to Select
Ensure that the packaging is intact and the sheets are in dried strips form.
1. It can be used to make jellies, puddings and custards. For making jelly, boil the agar agar in water until the solids dissolve. Then add sweetener, flavouring, colouring, fruit or vegetables etc, and pour the liquid into moulds to be served as desserts and/ or vegetable aspic ( a transparent savoury jelly).
2. It can also be incorporated with other desserts, such as a jelly layer on a cake.
3. It is mainly used as an alternative to gelatin in setting of mousses and cheesecakes which involve usage of gelatin, egg yolks and egg whites.
4. Manufacturers use agar agar in preparation of ready to make packaged jellies, ice-cream etc.
5. It is widely used in Japanese desserts like anmitsu, a dessert made of small cubes of agar jelly and served in a bowl with various fruits or other ingredients.
6. In Burmese cuisine, a sweet jelly known as "kyauk kyaw" is made from agar.
How to Store
Store agar agar in an air-tight container in a cool dry place.
1. It acts as a mild laxative, adding bulkwithout the calories.
2. Agar-agar is approximately 80% fiber, so it can serve as a great intestinal regulator.
3. It is a fine source of iodine, calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins.
Chopped agar agar
Agar agar is a gelatinous substance, which consists of un branched polysaccharide obtained from cell wall of red algae.
With a knife, first slice the agar jelly horizontally and then vertically. Try to keep it equal as much as possible. Now chop agar jelly by cutting it into small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger. Similarly if you want to "finely chop" the agar, cut it into still smaller size.