Pandan Agar Agar recipe

I am going to a potluck dinner today! (More on that another day.) I wanted to bring something a little different that some people may not have tried before. This is a South-East Asian vegetarian and dairy-free gelatin dessert that uses a couple of ingredients that may seem exotic to people unfamiliar with food from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines or Malaysia.

Pandan Agar Agar

Pandan Agar Agar

Pandan leaves (also known as pandanus or screw pine leaves) are a plant that is often used in South-East Asian cooking and appears in desserts, flavoured rice, curries, etc. The taste and smell of pandan is uniquely floral and slightly grassy. It is often paired with coconut; in fact, if you buy something that is coconut flavoured and it is green coloured, it probably has some pandan in it as well. People sometimes say that pandan leaves are as important to South-East Asian cooking as vanilla is to Western cooking. In Edmonton, you can purchase pandan leaves frozen from Asian grocery stores like T&T Supermarket and 99 Supermarket. I picked up pandan extract at 99 Supermarket.

pandan extract

pandan extract

Agar agar is a derived from an algae and is often used as a substitute for gelatin. It is most commonly used in South-East Asian and Japanese desserts, but sometimes gets used as a general thickener for food. You can sometimes find them in Asian grocery stores as long, dried strips, flakes or as a powder.

I originally was going to use a recipe that I found on the Internet or from a cookbook, but all of the ones I found weren’t quite what I was looking for. I ended up doing a test run and finally settled on these measurements as my preferred recipe.

Pandan Agar Agar

1 1/2 cup water
400 ml (approx 2 cups) thick coconut milk (use a higher fat milk – the one I used had 17 g of fat per 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tsp powdered agar agar
approx 1/2 tsp pandan (also known as screw pine) extract (also sometimes called essence or paste)

Place the water, coconut milk and sugar into a pot and bring to a low boil.

Sprinkle the agar agar powder into the pot slowly while continuously stirring the mixture. Be careful because the powder can easily clump in the liquid if you add it too quickly. If it does clump, then break it up as much as you can and keep slowly stirring until the lumps dissolve in the liquid.

Slowly add the pandan extract until the desired green colour is achieved. I added 1/2 tsp, but really the amount added depends on your preference.

Place the mixture into molds or a casserole dish and let cool. Agar agar will become solid at room temperature, but it will solidify faster in cold temperatures. I generally let the agar agar cool down a little bit, and then pop them into the fridge. I recommend making your layer about 1/2 inch tall or less; once you get much bigger than that the mixture will settle toward the bottom and the top part of the agar agar will become translucent. The flavour will fall to the bottom as well.

Once cool, unmold or cut the agar agar into squares, rectangles, parallelograms. I used a small cookie cutter to create fun shapes.

N.B. Alternatively you can use pandan leaves and make a pandan juice instead of using the extract. To create the juice you take about 8 long leaves and rinse them. Chiffonade the leaves if you can, or at least try to slice them into as small pieces as possible. Place them into a blender with 2/3 a cup of water and puree. Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth. If you substitute the juice for the pandan extract, remember to reduce the amount of the water in the above recipe to 1 cup.

This dessert can be made vegan if vegan sugar is used. It is Celiac-friendly as well, but you probably need to use the juice instead as I am not 100% sure the extract is gluten-free.

Chinese style scrambled eggs and tomato

This dish is great served with rice. If you want a lot of sauce to soak up in the rice, leave the seeds on your tomatoes. If you want a dish that is not as watery, then you should deseed your tomatoes before cooking. Some recipes also add ketchup to boost the tomato-y flavour – if you do that then I recommend you reduce the amount of sugar you add to the dish.

Chinese style scrambled eggs and tomato

Chinese style scrambled eggs and tomato

And why use white pepper instead of black? White peppercorns are fully matured peppercorns, while black peppercorns are green peppercorns that are dried until they become black. White pepper is usually used in Chinese and other Asian cooking. It has a slightly different flavour (more sharp) and cannot be seen once incorporated into food. You don’t usually see black flecks in Chinese food… unless the food is burnt. 😉 Use white pepper sparingly when adding it to food as it can be as hot as black pepper, although some people argue that it is milder or hotter than the black.

Chinese style scrambled eggs and tomato
Makes one shared entrée or 5-6 individual servings.

2 medium tomatoes or 3-4  “on the vine” tomatoes, roughly chopped
4-6 eggs (if you want you can use egg whites only, but I would recommend keeping at least one or two yolks for the flavour)
canola or sunflower oil
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

Whisk your eggs and fry them in a non-stick pan or wok with the oil. Scramble your eggs until they are about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way cooked. Remove the eggs and place them on a plate to the side.

In your pan add all the chopped tomatoes to the pan, and stir-fry until soft.

Add all of the sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the eggs back into the pan and gently stir until the eggs and tomatoes are incorporated. The eggs should be in large chunks still. Cook for another minute or so until the eggs are done.