The weather during my first two September trips to Japan was surprisingly hot and the humidity level unusually high, especially for a European. I soon discovered the best remedy: cold green tea from vending machines. I also quickly learnt to recognise the better-quality Japanese tea bottles and drank liters of this soothing beverage every day. Last week we experienced several particularly hot days and somehow it brought back the memories of green tea’s soothing power. This is how I decided to make this simple, light and quick dessert. Sharp-flavoured and highly astringent, this is probably a treat for matcha fans only, but if you are one of them, I hope you will like it as much as I did.
For those who have never heard about agar/agar-agar/kanten, it is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold in a form of powder or in long sticks (I always use the powdered form which seems easier to handle). It has been used by food industry all around the world and has been gaining popularity in Western households probably thanks to its vegetable origins and to its health benefits. In fact agar-agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it. It sets food in a different way.
If you like matcha desserts, you might find some of these interesting:
And if you wonder what to do with agar…
TIPS: I wanted this dessert to be barely sweet, so it might not be sweet enough for most people. Taste the mixture just after adding matcha and adjust to your preferences.
If you have never used agar (aka kanten), beware: it’s very easy to overdose and you will end up with something a brick-hard block of inedible stuff. Every pinch counts, so measure it out with caution. Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.
Do not wait until the liquid becomes cold before pouring it into serving glasses because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!
Sprinkle the dessert with pure matcha powder only if you are a huge fan. I did it but it makes the astringency level extremely high, so beware!
Preparation: about 15 minutes+ a couple of hours in the fridge
Ingredients (serves four):
500 ml (about two cups) water
2 flat teaspoons matcha powder
2 tablespoons sugar or honey or syrup
1/3 flat teaspoon pure agar powder (check the TIPS above to make sure you add a good amount of agar)
Pour the water into a pan.
Add the powdered agar and the sugar.
Bring to a boil, constantly stirring.
Add the matcha powder.
Simmer for about two minutes, still stirring.
Taste and add more sweetener if needed (heat for one more minute if you have added anything).
Mix in a food processor until matcha dissolves completely.
Pour into individual dishes and refrigerate for at least two hours.
The desserts will keep for several days in the fridge.
Just before serving you can add some coconut cream, whipped cream, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or some matcha powder, but the latter option will make the dessert even more astringent.