Agar Agar is a really versatile ingredient. Use it to make gels, fluid gels, caviars, or clarified liquids. A vegan ingredient to it’s animal derived gelatine counterpart, it carries some intriguing properties.
What is it?
Agar Agar is a mixture of two compounds agarose (the predominant ingredient) and agaropectin. Hence the name agar agar. It’s sold as a white powder or in long strands that look like glass noodles. Interestingly, it will begin to set liquids at around 40C and maintain it’s firm form until it reaches 80C. This allows it to be served in a gel or fluid gel state at warm temperatures.
Where does it come from?
Agar was discovered in 1658 in Japan. It is made by boiling agarophytes, varieties of red algae. The resulting liquid is then evaporated and processed into strips or a powder.
How do you use it?
Traditionally, agar is used in desserts all across Asia. In the kitchen, to make a gel you’ll need 1 to 1.5g per 100ml of liquid. The more acidic the liquid, the more agar you will need in order for it to set properly. If you aren’t sure if you’ve added enough, try setting your liquid on a cold surface, it should set in under a minute. Contrary to gelatine, you need to boil agar in the liquid so it can ‘bloom’ properly. Once chilled, the resulting gel will have a ‘snappier’ or flakier texture than gelatine gels, it may also have an opaque appearance. To create more elasticity, gelatine can be added to the mix(in the same quantity by weight). You can also try pureeing an agar gel to get a fluid gel texture.
Where can you find it?
Agar can be found in most asian markets. Look in the dessert section. Be aware that certain dessert mixes may contain high levels of sugar which will throw off your ratios and flavour. Look for the strand type if at all possible. It is also available at Powder for Texture online or at Nella Cucina in the GTA. 40g will set you back $8.
375 ml Opaque Juice(Orange, Tomato, Pear etc), at room temperature. (We used Pink Grapefruit in the photo)
1g Agar Agar
In a small pot combine the Agar and 100ml of the juice, simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the agar mix to the remaining juice. Set in the freezer until frozen.
Line your strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth and allow the frozen solution to thaw and strain through the cheese cloth. This can be done at room temp.