In Japan, a flour-like substance known as kanten powder is the staple ingredient for several Japanese desserts. Often confused with agar-agar, it is actually a different product. When used properly, it can produce both sweet desserts and savory dishes.
What is Kanten Powder?
Kanten powder is very similar to gelatin. However, it’s a vegan option since it is made from seaweed and not animal products. Just like gelatin, kanten powder is a gelatinous substance you can use to create many desserts and sweets. You can usually find them in three different forms: flakes, powder, and bars. Each has its purpose in producing various food products, but the results are typically all gelatinous.
Kanten powder has been in use in Japan for about 350 years. Legend says that in 1685, which is known as the Edo period in Japan, Lord Shimazu of the Satsuma clan resided in an inn in Kyoto’s mountains. He was served a meal of noodles made from algae collected from seaweed. Having made too much, the innkeeper tossed the remainder of the noodles out into the cold and snow.
The following day, others residing at the inn discovered that the noodles had frozen and become thin and papery but were still edible. This discovery led to the realization that the dried jelly could be used to make foods other than noodles and is now sold all over Japan as kanten powder.
Differences Between Kanten, Agar, and Gelatin
Kanten is similar to agar, and although it exhibits the same qualities as traditional gelatin, it is not the same. Here are the differences between the three.
Agar: Like kanten, this powdery substance is produced from a fiber that is extracted from seaweed. You need to dissolve the powder in water first and then allow it to solidify. Agar will usually remain in a solid form when in average indoor/outdoor temperatures. It is smooth and creamy with a gelatinous texture squarely between kanten and gelatin. Its primary use is to add texture to a dish, as it has no actual flavor of its own.
Gelatin: Most people in America are familiar with Jell-O, so you are also familiar with gelatin, from which is what Jell-O is made. But did you know that gelatin’s ingredient include the collagen from cow or pig bones? Not many people do, but vegans and vegetarians will stay away from any products made with gelatin.
Gelatin will solidify in temperatures below 68F and melt at about 77F. This is why Jell-O needs to be kept cold. Gelatin can also absorb bubbles and is ideal for making desserts with a fluffy texture, like mousse.
Kanten: Like agar, kanten is made from an extract of seaweed, but a different seaweed than agar. Kanten will solidify at higher temperatures, so you don’t need to keep kanten desserts in the refrigerator. When used, kanten also has a firmer texture than agar or gelatin and contains a fair amount of fiber, making desserts that utilize kanten jelly good for dieting. Kanten is one of the main ingredients in many Japanese desserts, such as wagashi. yokan, and anmitsu. You can also use it to make savory dishes.
How to Cook with Kanten Powder
Because kanten won’t melt at an average room temperature, it’s the perfect ingredients to make small desserts for parties where the foods may sit out on the table for hours. Keep this in mind when planning dinner parties, and you’ll be sure to make sweet desserts and sweets that your guests will love.
To use the kanten powder, all you usually need to do is melt the powder in water or other kinds of liquid you’re cooking with. Once you completely dissolve the kanten powder, you can season it with sugar, salt, or any other type of seasonings you desire before letting it solidify.
When melting kanten powder with milk, make sure not to boil the milk while dissolving kanten powder. Instead, warm milk over low heat and melt the powder patiently. You can also add fruit or fruit juice to make refreshing desserts and parfaits. However, you should only add fruit after the kanten melted completely and cooled slightly. Otherwise, the cold ingredients added to the warm kanten mixture could cause the mixture to curdle.
Try using kanten powder with some of these delicious recipes:
The recipes are easy-to-follow and will produce some unique and delicious desserts for you to enjoy!
You can find an easy-to-use kanten powder for sale online. The box contains four sachets so you can try to make several types of desserts and dishes.