Yōkan is a popular Japanese dessert made of red bean paste, agar-agar, and sugar. It may also contain chestnuts, persimmons, or figs and the agar-agar may be flavored with green tea. Mizu-yōkan has more water in it and is less firm. It is often chilled and eaten in the summer.
In Japan, beautifully made yōkan is served as a dessert in a kaiseki or a multi course meal. It is also served with a cup of tea as a form of greeting to your stay at a traditional Japanese inn or ryōkan. Yōkan can be purchased wrapped in plastic.
This Yōkan Jelly Dessert was inspired by the yōkan I have tasted in Japan. The top layer is flavored with matcha (green tea powder) while the bottom layer is left clear. Red bean paste is used for the filling.
- 1 oz (28g) agar-agar
- ¼ cup (55g) sugar
- 1 tsp matcha
- 1 can (18 oz/500g) red bean paste
Prepare 24 small silicone molds. Place them on a tray. You can also use large ice cube trays.
Drain red bean paste. Place in a pan and cook, stirring constantly until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, shape red bean paste into flattened balls or logs so that it can fit into center of mold.
Bring 4 cups (960ml) of water in a pot to boil. Add agar-agar and sugar, stirring constantly until agar-agar and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting so that agar-agar will not set.
Spoon enough agar-agar to fill about ¼ inch of molds. Place in the fridge for it to set, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix matcha with 2 to 3 tablespoons of warm water. Stir until it is well combined. Add matcha to liquid agar-agar. Stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
Once agar-agar has set, remove from fridge. Place little portions of red bean paste into mold on top of set agar-agar.
Next, fill mold to the top with matcha agar-agar. Return to fridge and allow agar-agar to set, about an hour.
Unmold by peeling back the silicone mold. If using ice cube trays, use a knife to go around the yokan and gently push it out.
These were molded using regular ice cube trays.
The appeal of agar-agar is not limited to Asian cuisine. It can be flavored, colored, and molded to suit many different settings. The thing with agar-agar is to get the ratio of agar-agar to water right. Too little powder (or gelatinous seaweed) will result in a soft agar-agar and too much will produce a very firm agar-agar.
The recipe below was shared by a young, talented and aspiring home chef with an Irish heritage. The agar-agar was molded in her grandma’s four leaf clover mold. It has a nice vanilla flavor and is just the right consistency. A very light and refreshing dessert, simple yet elegant.
- 1½ tbsp agar-agar powder
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1/3 cup (75g) sugar
Bring 3 cups (720ml) water in a pan to boil. Add agar-agar powder and sugar. Stir till dissolved.
Add vanilla essence and stir until combined.
Remove and pour into mold(s). Let it set in the refrigerator for an hour.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!