Chinese Dessert – Almond Jelly (杏仁豆腐)+ Longans

001 Almond Jelly, edited re-sized

Almond Jelly (杏仁豆腐) served with can longans was a popular Chinese dessert in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and is still on the menu of several Chinese restaurants now . Even though this is a Chinese dessert, it appeals to the Japanese as well. As more Westerners get accustomed to Tofu and Soy Milk and Chinese cuisine in general, this dessert now is also popular with them. At Dim sum restaurants the world this dessert has a significant place on that trolley.

The Almond Jelly portion of this dessert can be prepared 2 to 3 days ahead and assembled just before serving. This dessert requires just a few easy-to-purchase ingredients and short preparation time. My recipe uses soy milk instead of cow’s milk (suitable for the lactose intolerant and the vegan) and almond powder instead of almond essence. In our hot tropical weather, this cold, sweet and nourishing dessert hits the spot.

“Midas” Almond powder can be purchased from NTUC supermarket and also from several Chinese medical halls in the HDB neighbourhoods. In California, I have seen it on the shelves in Asian groceries there to. I was told that both types of Chinese almonds have been used for this powder. I find the flavour of bottled Almond essence too sharp and fake. For convenience, you might prefer to use almond essence. Just add about 1/2 tsp to your milky liquid just before you strain it in Step 6 below.

What do you do with a whole can of Almond powder after using some for this dessert? Caffeinated drinks keep me awake at night. Besides camomile, mint and herbal teas, this Almond Powder makes a great night cap. A drink made from boiled ground Chinese Almonds or from this Almond Powder is believed to gently heal and soothe bad coughs and are suitable for both adults and children.

Almond flavoured Soy Milk is also available on the supermarket shelves and you can use it instead of purchasing Almond Powder or Almond essence. You will get a stronger flavoured Almond Jelly. Skip Step 4 in this case.

Ingredients

003 - Almond Jelly

Gather the ingredients – almond powder, soy milk, canned longans, sugar and agar agar powder.  For a richer flavour, soy milk can be replaced with cow’s milk but substitute 1 Tbsp of cow’s milk with 1  Tbsp of evaporated milk + increase the sugar to 50 gm.

Put the can of Longans into the freezer section and leave it for about 8 hours to freeze. These frozen longans and syrup slush are delicious toppings for the almond jelly.

Cooking the Almond Jelly

004 - Almond Jelly

STEP 1. Add water, sugar and agar agar powder into a saucepan.  Notice the yellowish agar agar powder in the photo above. When you stir the liquid in the saucepan, it turns cloudy.

005 -Almong Jelly

STEP 2. Stir and boil cloudy liquid over medium high heat. After liquid boils, stir for 10 mins or more to ensure that the agar agar is completely dissolved.  You may have to lower heat as vigorous boiling may cause liquid to foam and boil over. You will know that the agar agar has completely dissolved when the liquid turns crystal clear.

Note. If the agar agar is not totally melted, your almond jelly will not gel properly and you will see un-melted lumps in the liquid. This is a very important step. Switch off heat and remove.

006 - Almond Jelly

STEP 3. Add the soy milk into the crystal clear liquid and stir. As a precaution, check the milky liquid. If you see little dots or lumps in it, the agar agar has not completely dissolved, boil for a further 5 to 10 min. over medium heat.

STEP 4. Strain liquid and pour into a mould. Use a teaspoon to scoop away any air bubbles before jelly hardens (unlike gelatin, this liquid solidifies quickly on the counter top without refrigeration). A rectangle-shaped mould is preferable as it makes even cut pieces. Chill in fridge for a few hours till it is cold.

STEP 5. Assembling dessert. Open the can of  frozen longans and break the slush with a large folk. Place the cubes of  Almond Jelly into either a large bowl or in individual bowls. Top each bowl with a few pieces of canned longans and the syrup slush. In case you had forgotten to freeze that can of Longans, crushed ice cubes will easily complete your dessert.

RECIPE 

My Comments – this recipe is my adaptation of one from Fong Kitchen Journal

Serves: 6 to 8 persons.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons agar agar powder
  • 30gm sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 4-5 teaspoons almond powder ( or 1/2 tsp almond essence)
  • 400ml soy milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 can of longans

Method:

  1. Freeze a can of longans for at least 8 hours.
  2. In a saucepan, combine agar agar powder, water, and sugar. Mix to combine and then heat sauce pan.
  3. Bring contents of saucepan to boil till all ingredients dissolve. This will take about 10 minutes or more. The liquid must turn crystal clear as this shows that the agar agar has been completely dissolved.
  4. Add almond powder and stir to mix well. Remove from heat.
  5. Add soy milk and mix well. If you spot tiny dots or lumps in your milky liquid, boil over medium heat to fully melt the agar agar powder.
  6. Pour mixture through s strainer into desired mould/s. Once agar agar has set, cut into desired shapes (I usually cut them into cubes).
  7. Assembling: In a large bowl or in smaller individual bowls, open the can of frozen longans (break frozen longans and syrup with a fork). Top Almomd jelly cubes with the frozen longans and syrup slush before serving.

Serving Suggestions

If you are planning to serve a Chinese meal, here are some links to other recipes.

Chinese Soups

1. Radishes with Dried Squid. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here.

3. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon. Click here.

Chinese One Dish Meals

1. Fried Rice. Click here.

2. Fried Yellow Noodles. Click here.

Chinese Seafood Dishes

1. Fried Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

2. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked).  Click here.

3. Quick Braised Sea Cucumber, Chicken and Mushrooms. Click here.

Chinese Meat Dishes

1. Chicken Breasts with ketchup. Click here.

2. Paper-Wrapped Chicken (baked). Click here.

3. Char Siew. Click here.

Chinese Vegetable Dishes

1. Broccoli and Meat/Tofu Stir Fry. Click here.

2. Spinach in Broth with 3 types of eggs. Click here.

3. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

4. Shanghai Cabbage with Oyster Sauce and Garlic. Click here.

Venture out into serving a different but suitable cuisine!

Japanese Cuisine

1.  Soup – Miso Soup and Brown Rice. Click here.

2. Chawan Mushi (Steamed Egg custard)  Click here.

3. Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here.

4. Yawata Maki ( Beef and Asparagus Rolls). Click here.

5. Simmered Pumpkin. Click here.

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