Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crazy Jelled Edibles

Browsing around other Bento sites, I found French Bento who does beautiful vegan bentos and makes pretty shaped aspics using agar-agar, the vegan's preferred jelling agent which does not use animal products. We spotted an envelope of agar-agar in the oriental grocery yesterday morning so I decided to try it out.

Agar-agar has many health benefits of a vague nature, but it also has the virtue of keeping things jelled at room temperature and even under some heating; nothing melts this stuff once it has grown firm.

In the plate above you see two creations using A-A and one using traditional Jello: the red square is cranberry-orange aspic, a savory to have with a square of cheese or something. The green blocks are carrot-frond aspic to be served over a bed of grated carrots with ginger. The round thing is a Jello jiggler made in a small muffin tin. Jello Jigglers (made with less water than normal Jello) will also hold at room temperature all day. Why I am suddenly fascinated with jelled things I do not know.

We tried out the cranberry aspic with steaks last night and found it to be excellent. In case you are interested here's how to make it -- and you could vary the ingredients a lot, and cut them in cute shapes for your Bento adventures:

Combine in a bowl:

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp zest of a satsuma or orange
one small apple, cored & cut in chunks
one peeled satsuma or orange, cut in big chunks
juice of a few key limes or one regular lime
1 1/2 cups of pomegranete juice

Chop in a blender until it is a nice pureed mush. Put in saucepan and mix in 2 tablespoons of agar-agar powder. Heat gradually to a nice bubbly boil and cook & stir for one minute.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, then pour in to greased (Pam spray) pan -- I used a 9 inch square Pyrex one. Once it is cooled and starting to set, refrigerate. Cut as desired when you are ready to pack your Bento!

This is not a sweet aspic but the apple gives it some sweetness. You could certainly add sugar if you wanted it on the sweeter side. I can't wait to make shapes and create frightening EmoFood out of these!!


  1. AH HA! I have seen agar-agar in the asian stores and I had no idea what it was! Thank you so much for posting this! I have been experimenting with home-made jello items using Knox Gelatin but maybe now I will be brave enough to try agar-agar. The whole idea of gelatin being made from animal hoofs sorta bugs me (I used to be a vegetarian). You know - hoofs are in marshmallows too! X__X

  2. Oh no not marshmallows!! well I can tell you this agar stuff really does jell - the carrot-frond one started hardening while it was still warm. And both of them sit on the counter for hours & don't change one bit.

  3. i'm a little scared of agar-agar to be honest. we used to use that in my biology class to grow mold samples on. I made a toxic one that the teacher had to specially remove. (it was hilariuous. all i heard was DONT OPEN ITTTT!!*teacher runs over* after i had remarked that my sample that i had forgotten about was bright red.)