Friday, January 23, 2009
Far East Treat
No, this is not a blancmange. Though it looks like it might have appeared in a Monty Python skit. This is annindofu; a Chinese dessert that is also found in Japan. Translations range from almond tofu to apricot pudding. It is also known as kanten jelly because the main ingredient is agar-agar. Which, of course, has a variety of names around the world, including kanten. Basically, it is a thickening agent derived from seaweed. It is 80% fiber, binds with glucose during digestion, and is part of a diet craze in Asia. Other diets facts about agar-agar can be found here. As for me, it is a new ingredient in my cooking arsenal.
So, annindofu? How did I ever stumble upon this? Well, it is a dessert. But, the story begins with my business trips to Tokyo over the years. I had a habit of eating at convenience stores. The variety of ready-to-eat food was too great to pass up. A far cry from a 7-11 hot dog (no, I've never had on, just referencing it). And, this is where I found the best steam cakes. But, I digress. There were small cups of what I thought was yogurt or custard with white translucent cubes. It was something better. And though I had no idea what it was called, I have been obsessed with it ever since.
Recently, I mentioned this to my friend Tari who lives in Tokyo. And, she not only found the name of this delectable treat, but also provided me with a recipe. I did run into an obstacle finding one ingredient (almond powder), so I searched for more recipes online. And found some here, here, and here. I experimented a bit and came up with my own variation. Mine is much sweeter than regular annindofu. Go figure. The truth is that I accidentally used sweetened, condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in one experiment. Best mistake I ever made.
An optional ingredient and one that was in the stuff I had in Tokyo is nata de coco, the white translucent cubes. Another high fiber ingredient, nata de coco is extremely sweet. The texture takes some getting used to. TJ spit it out. But, I love it. You should be able to find it in most Chinese and Thai grocery stores. Same for the agar-agar/kanten powder.
Here is the recipe. It takes all of 15 minutes to make this.
4g (slightly less than 1 teaspoon) agar-agar (kanten) powder
400 ml water
1/4 teaspoon almond flavor
100 ml sweetened, condensed milk
A few drops of food coloring
1/2 cup nata de coco cubes
Bring the water to a boil. Then, add the agar-agar powder. Whisk/stir continuously until all the powder is completely dissolved. This is key. If you need to, remove from heat and look at the bottom of pot to ensure that no granules are left. Add the almond flavor. Lower the heat and simmer. Add the condensed milk, turn up the heat, and stir continuously. Add optional food coloring here. Let the mixture come to just under a boil. Remove from heat. Pour into cups or a flat pan. Add the optional nata de coco to each container. Refrigerate for a few hours. Then, either serve directly out of container. Or, if you used a pan, cut it up into squares and serve with fruit. Bon appetite!
I leave you with Annindofu at Sunset. Enjoy. [Clicking on image will take you to my Flickr photostream]
One word about the color. Since I made the annindofu with condensed milk, it has a slightly yellowish tone instead of the normal milky white if I had used just plain milk. I wanted to add a little color. But, I added a bit more in order to mask the yellow. Still, it makes a nice contrast with the nata de coco cubes.