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What is Agar Agar?
Agar Agar is known as the “vegetarian gelatine”. It is also referred to as “kanten” – the japanese term. Agar Agar has a long history in Japan for use in traditional sweets like mizuyoukan. Agar is derived from Gracilaria (Gelidium species) a bright red sea vegetable (Gleidium purpurascens). This product has a minimum gel strength of 1100 and is considered the king of gelling agents.
What does Agar Agar Do?
Unlike gelatin which requires refrigeration to set, it will set at room temperature after about an hour – although it is advisable to store dishes gelled with Agar Agar in the fridge as it is a high protein food. Agar Agar can be used in a variety of dairy-free and vegan recipes as a stabilizing and thickening agent for custards, puddings and sauces and even vegetarian marshmallows.
The gelling ability of Agar Agar is affected by the acidity or alkalinity of the ingredients it is mixed with. More acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and strawberries, may require higher amounts of agar agar. Some ingredients will not set with it at all such as: kiwi fruit (too acidic), pineapple, fresh figs, paw paws, papaya, mango and peaches, which contain enzymes which break down the gelling ability.
Why use Agar Agar in Molecular Gastronomy?
In combination with other vegetable gums, Agar Agar may act as a stabilizer in sorbets and ice cream, as well as to improve the texture of dairy products like yogurt and cream cheese. The gelling properties of Agar Agar are also used in the preparation of fruit confectionery which are particularly popular in Asia.
Agar Agar is one of the flagship additives of molecular gastronomy. It is used to make dishes with unusual shapes and textures such as pearls and spaghetti gels. There is simply to dissolve the powdered agar-agar in a boiling aqueous liquid, then let it set while cooling, using various techniques. It is also incorporated into preparations using a food siphon to produce very light foams.
Agar Agar preparations are heat resistant, thereby making it possible to serve hot foams and gels.
Agar Agar is a great natural gelling agent that is perfect for creating solid pearls, gel spaghettis and jellies used in our modern cuisine approach.