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.
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?
The Food Coach
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?