Chinese Dessert – Orange Agar Agar

Chinese Dessert - 001 Orange Agar Agar edited re-sized

I still have vivid memories of my thoughts when our Domestic Science teacher in secondary school showed us a plate of Orange Agar Agar wedges – “Wow, we are going to make these?” When I brought home some samples for my family after school, these simple wedges were greeted with exclamations of  “WOW!” ” Fantastic!” “They look like real orange wedges!”  They are indeed like real orange wedges, they look like them and taste like them. The main difference lies in the bite. These Agar Agar Orange wedges are full flavoured, sweeter with the added “firm crunch” from the agar agar.

Recently, as I was mulling over serving something that is healthy, gluten free, cold and refreshing, my memory of this visually impressive dessert was triggered. With the countless moves I have made; firstly, with my husband and then with our family across continents, that old school text book with the recipe was lost.  It was a sweet surprise when I found a recipe on a blog called nasilemaklover. Even though the recipe is different from those school days, it produced great results.

I made this dessert  and as gifts to friends for Chinese New Year a couple of times and they were a hit. They make good gifts wrapped as shown in the photo for birthdays, and other auspicious Chinese celebrations. Ingredients needed couldn’t be any simpler and most helpers are familiar with them. It is a fun project you can do with your children.

Some comments about the Ingredients

1. Oranges and Orange Juice. Although navel oranges are very sweet at the end of the year, you will have to exercise more care during juice extraction and removal of pulp and pith because of that navel. To get a full flavoured dessert, it is unlikely that you will be able to extract enough freshly squeezed orange juice needed to fill each “orange cup”.

If you are living in South East Asia, make up the shortfall with orange juice from a UHT pack of juice. If you are living elsewhere like the USA, use “Florida Natural” or “Torpicana” freshly squeezed orange juice. They are also available here in SE Asia, in the refrigerated section of supermarkets but they are rather pricey.

2. Rock sugar. They are sold in large chunks or small even sized pieces. I like to use small pieces of brown rock sugar. White ones are also suitable. Large ones take longer to melt.

3. Agar Agar powder. You can purchase them in sachets but make sure that they are not coloured. In Singapore, Phoon Huat is a go-to store for many bakery items.

this brand of agar agar powder is available at Asian groceries in the USA

 Preparation of the “Orange cup”

STEP 1. Slice to half each orange and extract juice from each half . With a strainer, separate the juice from the pulp. Since the remaining pulp still contains quite a bit of orange juice, use a tablespoon to press the pulp to extract more juice. I do like to keep about 10% of pulp to add into the cooked agar agar before filling the prepared cup.

STEP 2. Using a teaspoon, scrape each half clean of the pulp and pith. If you have used navel oranges, exercise great care when you reach the navel part as it will break easily and cracks are likely to form. In such cases, you will have less “cups” to use.

STEP 3. Kitchen scissors will be handy here. Use it to cut off all the peeled pulp and pith without creating cracks or holes in the bottom of the orange skin. Much needed should navel oranges be used.

STEP 4. Use a large tray and some rolled up hand towels to balance the orange halves, ready for filling with the cooked agar agar later on. Egg cartons can also be used instead of towels but surprisingly,  I found them to be trickier to handle.

Cooking 

STEP 5. Measure the extracted amount of orange juice and make up the shortfall (if any) with juice from a UHT pack. Place all ingredients into a large saucepan. With heat off, stir so that the agar agar powder is well mixed. Now turn on the heat to cook mixture over high heat for the first 3 to 5 mins. Lower heat so that mixture will not foam over and continue boiling and stirring. It is likely that you will have to cook this mixture for at least 20 mins to ensure that all the agar agar powder is completely melted. The murky orange colour of the liquid will turn much clearer. Add in that 10% orange pulp and stir again. Yes, I always try to include as much fibre as possible into my food.

STEP 6. Check each cup on the tray and make sure that they are level. Then, slowly fill each orange cup as close to the brim as possible. Use a spoon to remove any bubbles. Run you eyes over all the cups to make sure that all bubbles have been removed and each cup has been filled to the brim.

STEP 7. Leave them to cool and harden. Once they are cooled and hardened, refrigerate them to chill. Serve chilled and sliced into wedges.

A Blooper!

If there is even there is slightest break in the orange cup, the agar agar will leak through.

 RECIPE

Makes at least 8 orange cups
  • 2 tsp agar-agar powder
  • 400 ml pure orange juices (from 4 oranges) or mix with store-bought orange juices
  • 50 gm rock sugar (this depends on the sourness of the oranges and your preference. Adjust accordingly).
Method
1.Slice each orange into half. Extract the juice and strain. Press the pulp in the stainer to extract as much juice as possible. Keep about 10% of the pulp, un-pressed, if you want to include some fibre.
2. Remove the flesh using a teaspoon and finally with a pair of scissors. Repeat steps 1 and 2 till all the juice and pulp have been extracted from the orange halves and they have become cups.
3. Prepare a large tray with rolled up kitchen towels at regular intervals. Place orange cups and balance them carefully on these towels.
4. Measure the extracted amount of orange juice and make up the shortfall (if any) with juice from a UHT pack. 5. Place all ingredients into a large saucepan. With heat off, stir so that the agar agar powder is well mixed. Now turn on the heat to cook mixture over high heat for the first 3 to 5 mins. Lower heat so that mixture will not foam over and continue boiling and stirring. It is likely that you will have to cook this mixture for at least 20 mins to ensure that all the agar agar powder is completely melted. The murky orange colour of the liquid will turn much clearer. Add in that 10% orange pulp and stir again.
6. Fill the orange cups with cooked orange agar agar. Remove air bubbles with a teaspoon. Cool and harden on counter top.
7. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Serve chilled.
Serving Suggestion
Include orange wedges as part of a fresh fruit platter served at the end of a meal and watch your guests exclaim in surprise.

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.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. 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 is always so artfully presented and the portions are so dainty. This dessert would be prefect. In many parts of the world, a take away box of sushi and sashimi is readily available. Add any one or more of these dishes to your party!

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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