China Grass or Agar Agar is nothing but a Vegetable ‘gelatine’ derived from a number of seaweeds (Gelidium amansii) which are processed by boiling and drying. Agar-agar is used as a quick-setting base for many sweets and desserts in Asia. Refrigerators are a luxury many people in Asia do not have, and agar-agar’s chief advantage is that it will set without refrigeration and not melt down in tropical heat. It is also used as a finishing glaze.(Source Asia Food Glossary )
It is available in powdered form or as dried strands.While using strands ,always cut the strands into small pieces(with pair of kitchen scissors) and soak them in water for 10-15 min.
This is a base recipe of China grass and my Mother makes it this way.You can try out different versions,varying from adding nuts, to fruits etc.One beautiful way of having this pudding is given here at Mishmash
And this goes without saying that this China grass recipe is of my Mother, but this time it was my Younger sister who made it, and I just clicked it gleefully
- Milk about 11/2 lit. (yields approx five cups like above)
- Agar agar strands 1 packet ( Generally of 10 gms)
- Sugar as per taste (Mom just adds 5 tsp and it was sweet enough for diabetic people in family,but you can add more)
- Water 1 cup
- Cardamom pods (choti elaichi) 4-5
- Nuts to garnish
- Cut the strands into an inch long pieces(or even smaller) and soak them in water for about 10-20 minutes
- Meanwhile keep the milk for boiling, add cardamoms and let the milk reduce by approx. 600 ml (that means there should be less than 1 lit milk remaining)
- Squeeze out agar agar to remove water.
- Alternatively you can soak it in about a cup of warm milk and then use that mix to pour in boiling milk, without straining.Subtract that one cup of milk from 11/2 lit milk, which is kept for boiling.
- Let it simmer and cook till fully dissolved (if needed i.e if there are lumps, you can strain it at this step too)
- Add sugar and keep on stirring till thick rabri like consistency is achieved.This could take anywhere between 2-5 minutes so keep on checking
- Pour this mixture into ice cream cups or bowls or molds and let it cool and GEL at room temperature. Sprinkle nuts like almonds, walnuts and /or kishmish (raisins), charoli (chironji) etc.Again you can spread it on Flat plate (thali) and after setting, cut it into squares.
- Chill it in refrigerator and enjoy it cold or at room temperature