Monday, 14 May 2007

Milky Kanten Jelly - 牛乳かん

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Last year I took a few Home Economics classes with my students. I was partnered with some very genki third year boys who got a kick out of trying to mime the Japanese instructions and the whole thing was a lot of fun.

One of the first things we made was a milk jelly using kanten. Kanten, also known as agar-agar, is a seaweed extract that works like gelatin, is vegetarian-safe and full of fibre. Here in Japan there's been a lot of talk about its health and weightloss benefits and it's a common ingredient in desserts like yokan and anmitsu.

Kanten is also used to make a milky jelly called annindofu, which is flavored with almond extract and usually served cut into squares and mixed with canned fruit. It has a mild, creamy taste and the first time I tried some I assumed it was a kind of sweet tofu.

I wanted to try making something similar, but of course by now I'd misplaced the recipe from Home Ec and I had to make do with guestimations from the internet. The first batch wasn't great. I don't think I used enough liquid, and didn't disolve the kanten properly, because while everything set and the taste was fine, the jelly had a weird grainy texture. For my second attempt I did what I should have done from the beginning and followed the Japanese directions on the box, with a little tweaking to give it a vanilla flavor. This is the method I used....

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Recipe: Milky Kanten Jelly - バニラ 牛乳かん
Serves 4 with fruit as a light dessert.

250ml water
250ml milk (low fat will work fine)
4g packet of kanten powder
40g sugar
dash of vanilla essence


  • Mix the water and kanten powder in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer, whisking until the kanten has been completely disolved.
  • If you're unsure whether kanten in sufficiently dissolved, rub a little of the liquid between your fingers. If it feels lumpy or grainy, it needs more time.
  • Add sugar, milk and vanilla, continue whisking until sugar is absorbed and it starts to bubble lightly.
  • Remove from heat and pour into your mould of choice.
  • Refridgerate for several hours until set firm.

This time the texture was as firm and smooth as Aeroplane jelly and thanks to the vanilla it smelt amazing. With this much sugar the jelly was delicious all by itself, but I'd use less if I made it to serve with canned fruit again. Jelly is such a great summer dessert - light, cool and perfect with all the fresh fruits that are appearing in the shops now.

I'm almost glad my first batch didn't work out, because while I was searching for answers I found my new favorite blog - Naoko-san is a Japanese expat living in California and she's got a really cute writing style, interesting Japanese-fusion cooking and a wealth of georgous kanten desserts like kuro goma and ricotta kanten, matcha milk kanten and marscapone kanten. I'm looking forward to trying out a few of her recipes as well as experimenting with coconut milk and tropical fruit combinations, or a jelly version of coconut bubble tea. Yum! I don't think I've been this excited about jelly since I was 5 years old.

1 comment:

hedonistcat said...

konnichiwa- have you had luck using to nyu (soy milk) in place of the milk? Let me know.