Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vegan MoFo 1- What is agar agar?

I was looking for this post from October for the ratios and realised it had somehow disappeared. How, I have no idea but I had to go searching through the google reader archives to find it!
 Now it means you get to see it again. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Happy Vegan MoFo!
My MoFo will take  a slightly different style to last years. This month I'm going to share with you some of the delicious ingredients that I get inspiration from in the Asian grocer. Continuing from my What is Jackfruit? post I thought I'd use this MoFo to show you some of my favourite and slightly more unusual of my Asian grocer purchases and the recipes they can be used in. I'll also be revisiting my Vegan MoFo posts from last year for those that need a bit more of an intro to veganism focus. You can find my first Vegan MoFo post on my journey to veganism here.
What is Agar agar? 
 Agar agar (sometimes just called agar, Kanten or E406) is a gelatinous seaweed or red algae extract- Gleidium purpurascens- that acts similarly to gelatine but is eight times stronger!
Agar Agar Algae
All natural, 80% fibre, ridiculously low in calories (2g = 6 cals), high in iodine, antibacterial and practically tasteless it has many wonderful uses. 
It's used predominately in Asain jelly desserts like the Kueh above, puddings and custards but can also be found in jams, 'cheeses' and ice creams. It makes a great thickener in savoury dishes like soups and sauces too. Agar agar sets in 1hr at room temperature (or quicker in the fridge) and has a jelly like texture which it much more pleasing than gelatine. You can find it in dried strips, flakes or as a powder from the health food store (green packet pictured) or Asian grocers (blue, white & red packet pictured) for much cheaper! 
The general ratio used is 2g agar agar : 500ml liquid but if you're using acidic ingredients you will need much more. When cooking with agar agar you need to dissolve it completely while stirring and bring it to a simmer (approx 5 mins). Unlike gelatine agar agar can be boiled and remelted if need be. To test your consistency you can place a drop on a saucer and wait for 30 seconds- if it's too runny rain in more agar or too thick add more liquid.
You can find all my agar agar recipes here! I really enjoy using agar agar as an ingredient. You can find it in myFruit trifle

Additional Resources:

History and additional details of Agar agar 
Agar agar Botanicals 
Molecular Structure
Scientific introduction and uses for agar agar 
Wikipedia Agar agar

I hope you give agar agar a try, it really is a wonderfully versatile ingredient to have in your cupboard!
All the best,

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