In cooking Thai food, I’m occasionally reminded of my days growing up in the microbiology lab. Sometimes it’s simply a reminder of how much fun it is to do experiments, like this curry paste brand comparison “experiment”. Other times, it will be a specific ingredient that triggers my memory, such as shrimp paste, which always brings me back to the aroma of an autoclave just finishing its run…
But none of these reminders has been quite so literal as this agar-agar dessert, which, as far as I can tell, is made from the same agar used to grow bacteria in the micro lab.
When combined with fresh pandan and coconut, this growth media is transformed into a delicious Thai dessert.
The pandan brings an earthy, almost nutty flavor while the coconut adds a rich creaminess. Because of the agar, this dessert solidifies at room temperature, making it very versatile and easy to share. It’s kind of like an elevated jello, without the hassle of refrigeration, and with amazing Thai flavors.
The agar can be poured into molds, cut into squares or cubes, or even pressed with cookie cutters to make specific shapes. It’s the perfect medium for wherever your imagination takes you — even if it’s back to the lab with coconut- and pandan-flavored DNA nucleotides :)
Coconut and Pandan Agar | Wun Gati Bai Tuey | วุ้นกะทิใบเตย
- Wash and cut the pandan leaves into 1 inch pieces.
- Make pandan juice by mixing 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup pandan leaf pieces and pulsing together in a blender. Strain to remove the leaves, reserving only the pandan juice. Set aside.
- Combine the agar agar powder with 4 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove. Bring to a gentle boil and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Once the agar agar has been boiled and sugar dissolved, remove 2 cups and place into a separate bowl. Add the pandan juice to this bowl and stir to incorporate. Pour into a shallow pan or mold and allow this pandan-flavored layer to harden at room temperature.
- While the pandan agar is solidifying, add the coconut milk to the remaining agar agar on the stove. Mix to incorporate and turn the heat down to low, keeping the agar warm but not continuing to boil.
- Once the pandan layer has solidified, slowly pour the warm coconut agar agar layer on top. Allow this layer to solidify, then remove from mold or cut into desired shapes.
- Top with fresh young coconut meat, if desired, and serve while still fresh.