Agar Agar with Strawberries

A friend of mine who moved to Singapore about a year ago told me the other day that she introduced a PBJ to a colleague of hers who'd never had one before. It's not that we don't know what peanut butter is, I grew up on Skippy. But what you all call jelly, we call jam. Well, actually, we don't because jam is jam and growing up, your jelly wasn't found in most Singaporean kitchens until Smuckers brought their peanut butter and goober grape spread there but even then, I think it just seemed like a really gross concept to people.

What we think of as jelly is what you all call jello. And even then, it's made of different ingredients. Jello is made of gelatin, the source of which is animal hooves. Our jelly is made of agar, derived from red algae to create a thickening agent for soups, food and, in Asia, jelly! Known as Kanten in Japan, agar agar jelly is a popular dessert. The consistency is a little more solid than jello and it won't melt when left out.  It has little to no calories on its own, and contains a ton of fiber. Let's not forget that it doesn't come from animal toenails (which is what I always think hooves are) so that means it's vegan/vegetarian friendly and it's gluten free.

But enough with science, let's get down to the fun part.







Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Agar powder

  • 2 cups water in a pot

  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or however much you want to taste)

  • Strawberries cut up into little pieces


This is enough for 1 dozen mini cupcake molds.


First, place your cupcake mold or whatever mold you're using in the freezer to chill. I would not recommend doing this with glassware.


Put the powder and sugar in the water, turn on your stove to bring to a boil. Stir constantly, never letting the powder settle. Once it starts to boil, have your strawberries and your molds ready.


Use a ladle and spoon a half inch layer into the mold. Place a couple of pieces of fruit in the agar solution. Put in fridge to chill about 10 minutes or when the strawberries won't move when you shake the mold a little.


Keep the agar solution simmering, stirring to keep it from settling. Once you're sure the first layer has set, ladle another layer and put more fruit in. Put it back in the fridge. Repeat this till the mold is to the height/shape you desire.


Once the jelly is solid just cover it up with saran wrap and leave it in your fridge till you're ready to serve. I'm not sure how long they keep because I usually eat them all in one sitting.


Warning - because there's a lot of fiber in the agar, there's a good chance it will expand some more in your stomach so just go easy the first couple of times you consume this. Also, agar agar powder is really hard to find. It's considered an herbal supplement and everything I've seen online is pricey. Even the powder I had thanks to a friend who went to a huge international market in Georgia got me was $9 and it wasn't very much. Luckily all it takes for a small batch is a teaspoon so I won't run out too quickly.

Another tip: If you add too much water, it will turn mushy. I err on the side of less water and I preferred the batch where I used only 1 3/4 cups of water. Be mindful, if you're using syrups, to use less water. The liquid/powder ratio must be  (maximum) 2 cups/1 tsp.