Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ga Ga over Agar Agar

As some of you may have gathered from reading my blog, I am vegetarian. A lacto-ovo vegetarian to be precise (this means I eat eggs and dairy products too). Why? I just choose not to, that's all... As a vegetarian I avoid gelatine because it's animal based. It is derived from the collagen inside animals' skin, bones and cartilage. I don't mean to gross anyone out, but I think it's important to know our food, right(?)

Unfortunately, this means there are a lot of foods that are out of reach for me... jelly lollies (like frogs and snakes) panna cotta, some cheesecakes, and pretty much anything with jelly. I know I could live without these sort of treats (my jeans would probably thank me for it)... but I do like a challenge, and it got me thinking about how to create these sorts of foods without gelatine.

Then, very recently, I heard about Agar Agar - a non-animal alternative to gelatine.. Could it be true?! So I started doing some online research, and here's what I found out...

What is it?
Agar agar is a seaweed based vegetarian/vegan substitute to gelatine. It comes from red seaweed, and is rich in iodine and trace minerals.

What does it look like?
Agar agar is available in the forms of bars, strings and powder. It is white in colour.

What does it taste/feel like?
Some say it is tasteless, while others say it is slightly sweet. There are flavoured varieties available, so obviously they will taste different altogether. From what I've read, it gives a texture a bit stiffer and bouncier than gelatine.

How do you use it?
Agar agar is said to have much stronger setting properties than gelatine. Unlike desserts using gelatine that need time to set in the fridge for several hours, agar agar can set at room temperature in as little as an hour. So it makes sense that agar agar is a popular setting agent in tropical climates of South East Asian countries.
  • Powdered agar agar can be substituted for the same quantity of powdered gelatine in a recipe.
  • For every teaspoon of agar agar powder, you should substitute a tablespoon of agar agar flakes.
  • For a firm jelly you require approximately 2 teaspoons of powder or 2 tablespoons of flakes per 1 pint / 600ml of liquid.
  • Generally, agar agar needs to be soaked for between 15-20 minutes before use, and then needs to simmer for a couple of minutes to dissolve.
  • Depending on the acidity of the ingredients being used, more agar agar may be required. E.g. dishes including citrus fruits often need a bit more.
Where do you buy it?
Agar agar is available from health food stores and Asian grocery shops. It is inexpensive - I paid $1.60 for a 25 gram packet.

Want to know more?
Check out:
Vegcooking
The Food Coach
Wikipedia

My task
The most important part of all! In the coming days I'll be roadtesting Agar Agar as a gelatine substitute in a recipe, so stayed tuned...  Fingers crossed for a beautiful, jiggly dish without too much compromise on flavour or texture!


But before then, I'm keen to hear from you, my dear readers... Have you ever used/tried Agar Agar? If so, how was it?


Ladybird x

8 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, so cheap, mine was much more expensive. The health food shop ordered it in for me and wanted to charge me $13! When I said I wasnt going to buy it he sold it to me for $9.
    Anyway, I used it to make a lemon 'cheesecake' it actually was more of a lemon pie. I thought it actually made it furmer than gelatin would have, so I would use larger amounts with care. If your interested in the recipe...
    http://rosesrred85.blogspot.com/2009/10/lemon-tart.html

    Looking forward to seeing how your recipe turns out :)

    Rose

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  2. oh hey Anna, my mum makes these cool Agar Agar jellies all the time, with coconut and pandan flavours even chocolate and strawberry sometimes... will get her to give me the recipe and i'll post up the recipe for you when i get the chance :D

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  3. I grew up eating agar-agar jellies in Malaysia. This post brings back memories. Sweet!

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  4. i went through a phase where i read lots of "healthy" cookbooks. at work one afternoon, we received a sample of bonsoy following the recall scare so i tried out a recipe - one that involved soy milk panna cotta infused with lemon zest and set with agar. i followed the packet directions for the ratio of agar : liquid to set the "panna cotta" as we had a strange sheet type of agar instead of powder which was specified in the recipe. a big mistake as it turned out. the "panna cotta" came out like a rubber bouncy ball! :P

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  5. I've used agar powder in chocolate mousse and in a lemon tart, both were fantastic! Good luck with your recipe!

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  6. I have used agar agar to make fruit mousse, crème caramel, panna cotta and some kind of vegetable quiche (to avoid using eggs). I think it works well, but the quantity can be tricky. If you put too much powder, it becomes really stiff!! My mum is using it often to prepare fruit mousses, and she recommands to mix the preparation in a blender, after it has thickened. She finds it is making it more fluffy.
    The important thing is to disolve the agar agar in a cold liquid and bring it to the boil for at least 30 seconds.
    Lots of info on Cléa's website (in French)http://www.cleacuisine.fr/autres/tout-sur-agar-agar/
    Looking forward to reading your recipes :-)

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  7. Hello.

    I am trying to make a Kosher raspberry mousse that is firm enough to support a cake. I found out about Agar Agar in Culinary school, but had never used it before. So far my results aren't so great. Since the set point of the Agar Agar is so hot I can't fold in the whipped cream.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you

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  8. My health food shop charged me $19.00 for a 75g packet.

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