Iron Chef Chen’s Almond Pudding (vegan version)

Previously, on tastingmenu.wordpress.com –

* https://tastingmenu.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/substituting_agar_for_gelatin/

So as I wrote earlier, I’ve been wanting to get back to making the classical almond tofu dessert after having mixed results over the years.   Thank you, Iron Chef Chen for sharing your version of the recipe – since I’ve tried a bunch of your recipes from your cookbook, I felt I could pretty much use your version as a good template for making a vegan version of your dessert.

So based on the recipe from Iron Chef Chen’s Knockout Chinese (p. 97) I decided that this is what I needed to carry out this experiment this past Friday night (20 Apr 2012) –

5 tablespoons of sugar
10 oz water(about 90 degrees C/194 degrees F)
1 1/4 teaspoon of agar powder
14 oz unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

194 degree F hot water from our Tiger hot water machine

So into a pot I placed the sugar and then poured in the hot water and stirred until the sugar

5 tablespoons of sugar…

…10 oz of water to dissolve the sugar

dissolved. The stove was placed on the stove on 50% heat to keep the solution warm and then I

Powdered agar from Mitsuwa, Edgewater, NJ

Agar powder measure out

immediately measured out the agar and dissolved it into the solution. Finally I measured out the soy

unsweetened soy milk for the dish (14 oz)

milk and immediately added it to water/sugar/agar solution, stirred to make sure the soy milk was fully combined and then took it off the heat.   Once the mixture was off the heat, I added the teaspoon of almond

Getting a teaspoon of almond extract

extract to the solution, mixed it in well and left the whole thing to cool.

Chen-san comments that the mixture should be strained into a storage container, but I skipped this and transferred the mixture to a square glass container and then to the refridgerator to be chilled overnight (until firm).

almond tofu pudding after it has chilled overnight and set

Since this was basically an experiment, I went out and got a small canned fruit cocktail (remembering my trips to Manhattan’s Chinatown when I was growing up and having this dessert).  As it would turn out, my wife had also gotten a mango or two and she thought it might be fun to add the mango to the dessert. So, I spooned out some of the almond tofu into bowls and my wife and I added the fruit to it and a little of the light syrup from the canned fruit cocktail and tasted the preparation.

spooning out the ‘tofu pudding’…

…with fruit cocktail and fresh mangoes added

After tasting this dessert, my wife and I both agreed this was probably the best version I’ve made with the agar – it had just about the right consistency.  She liked the flavor profile; though I felt that it could have used another teaspoon of the almond extract (I guess I wanted a stronger ‘punch’ of the almond).  I want one more go-around with this recipe to replace the water with more soy milk (I didn’t feel that there was enough of a soy/tofu ‘presence’ in the dessert).  This would mean the ingredient list would be –

5 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon of agar powder
24 oz unsweetened soy milk (heated to 194 degrees F)
2 teaspoon almond extract

Four ingredients mixed into a heated soy milk solution and then refridgerated made me realize now how staggeringly simple this dessert is to prepare.  I’ll do an update followup when I do the augmented soy milk/almond extract version.

With the apparently confirmation that the gelatin/agar conversion is 3:1 means that I’ll be able to do the Nobu ‘cherry jello’ desserts from Nobu Now (p 225) using the agar.  A farther reaching result is that I may now have a neat shortcut to making the classic chinese ‘shao long bao’ (aka little dragon dumplings/soup dumplings).  Basically that trick is to gel chinese superior broth with agar, chop up the resulting gel and blend it into the seasoned meatball filling and then packaging it in its wrapper (cuts down on the time required to make the classic pork skin-based gelatin required for the recipe).

Update (21/22 May 2012) –

So I went to try the new proposed version of the recipe.  It failed to gel/failed to set properly.  So I poured the chilled contents back into the pot and brought the temperature back up to about ~194 degrees F.  At this point, I took a guess and measured out 1 more teaspoon of agar powder and dissolved it into the mixture and then took it off the heat to cool.  Once at room temperature, I put it back into the refridgerator to be chilled overnight.  The next evening and tried it.  It worked.  It also had virtually the same consistency of kinugoshi tofu. So the updated ingredient list is:

5 tablespoons of sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon of agar powder
24 oz unsweetened soy milk (heated to 194 degrees F)
2 teaspoon almond extract

I understand agar won’t set/gel in the presence of fruit enzymes such as pineapple, kiwi or papaya or in the presence of a very acidic environment (or at least one would have to use more agar then expected).  The only changes I made to this recipe was swapping in more soy milk for the water and adding one more teaspoon of almond extract.

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