Word of the Week: Agar-Agar
Agar-agar, also known as kanten, is a flavorless gelling agent that is derived from seaweed. I know the name sounds strange, but try to be open-minded and give it a try, because it’s a wonderful way to replace gelatin in many recipes.
Agar can be purchased in flake, powder, or bar form from many health-food stores and Asian markets and from some grocery stores, such as Whole Foods. And if those options don’t work for you, just buy it online. To use agar, dissolve it in liquid and then let it set for about an hour—the firming process doesn’t even require refrigeration. Also, you can use almost any liquid you’d like, so get creative with it. Just remember that for a firmer gel, add more agar-agar, and for a softer gel, add more liquid. I think you get the idea.
Here’s a quick ratio rundown:
•Substitute powdered agar-agar for gelatin using equal amounts.
•1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.
•Set 2 cups of liquid using 2 tsp. of agar-agar powder, 2 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes, or one bar.
Looking for ways to use agar? Here’s a Web roundup of a few interesting, and one downright weird, recipes:
•Dude, Where’s the Stove? shares a recipe for Mom’s Kohi Kanten (coffee pudding).
•Tofu for Two uses it to make the filling of a Creamy Lime Pie.
•Why a Vegan? takes the award for weirdest use of agar-agar, in Vegan Jager Bomb Cupcakes.
•Hochiak! uses agar-agar to make a beautiful Dragon Fruit Jelly.
Try one of these recipes, or let me know if you have a better one!