Today’s recipe is a fine example of innovation in Japanese cooking. The recipe combines two very Japanese ingredients (matcha and kanten) to make a dessert that was once only a specialty of French restaurants: matcha mousse!
Unlike other green teas which are steeped in water, when you drink matcha tea, you consume the powdered tea leaves. It is the tea that is prepared and served at formal tea ceremonies. Its strong taste and pleasant bitterness make it a suitable accompaniment to Japanese sweets—like esspresso after a rich, sweet dessert. Matcha is also used to flavor and color foods such as soba noodles, ice cream, and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).
Kanten is the Japanese word for agar-agar (a Malaysian word). It is made from marine plants called tengusa in Japanese. Historically, the tengusa was cooked in water to make tokoroten with a delicate taste of the sea. To make kanten (which means “cold sky” in Japanese), tokoroten is dried in cold air.
I can easily find the stick form (bo kanten), and the powder form, but Ms. Shimbo notes in her book that she prefers a string form (ito kanten). The powder needs no soaking, but produces a more opaque gelatin. The stick form should be soaked for 1/2 hour, and produces a clear firm gelatin. Apparently the string kanten must be soaked overnight, is the most clear, and makes a soft gelatin.
One stick (1/4 ounce / 7.5 grams) or two teaspoons of powdered kanten will set about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of liquid. Part of the water can be replaced with juice, wine, coffee, milk, or soy milk. It’s fun to experiment, but acid and enzymes of some fruits
will destroy the gel-structure, so do some research, or
Matcha no Musu
yields 5 small servings
- 1/2 stick bo kanten (stick agar-agar)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
Soak the kanten in cold water for 1/2 hour. Squeeze it to remove excess water. Transfer the agar-agar to a pot, and add the water. Over low heat, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook over medium heat until the agar-agar dissolves. Stir in the sugar. Add the milk and bring the pot almost to a boil. Set aside and don’t let it set—it should remain liquid.
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (if you have a sweet tooth, add a bit more sugar)
- 1 teaspoon matcha, mixed with 1 teaspoon boiling water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
In a bowl beat the egg yolks and whip in the sugar. Put the bowl into a sieve and place it over a pot of boiling water (or use a double boiler) to beat and thicken the egg mixture. Add the matcha and stir thoroughly.
Add the kanten mixture to the eggs, little by little, beating with a whisk. Beat in the cream. Transfer the mousse to individual glass dessert cups. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator.
- 1/2 Tablespoon matcha
- 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons boiling water
- Shaved bitter chocolate
Mix the tea, sugar, and water together and divide among the dishes. Top with a sprinkle of chocolate.
Note: This dessert can sit at room temperature for an hour—very convenient for a party.
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