Mitsumame is a traditional Japanese summertime sweet—a bowl of fruit, sweet red peas, ice cream and gelatin that looks like ice cubes. Does this sound appealing? No? To be honest, I was hesitant to try this recipe.
But doesn’t it look pretty? Luckily it’s still hot and summery here, and I thought this might be my last chance to try this recipe this year.
What a surprise: this dessert is fabulous! Don’t be misled by “quick-and-easy” recipes which use canned fruit cocktail—use fresh ripe fruit. You won’t be disappointed.
Classic Agar-Agar Gelatin in Syrup
serves 4 generously
- 1 bo kanten (agar-agar stick)
or 1 packet kanten powder (4 grams)
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- prepare a 6-inch square mold
Or, use a cleaned milk carton, or a square plastic food container.
- 2 cups combined cubed fresh fruit such as
cantaloupe, kiwi, peach, berries, watermelon, banana,…
- 1 can red peas, optional—see note below!
- 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
• If you are using the agar-agar stick, tear it into quarters and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the water.
• In a medium pot, combine the soaked go kanten or the kanten powder with the water. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring all the time (don’t splash the liquid up the sides of the pot or it will burn and stick): 6 to 8 minutes for the stick form, or 2 to 3 minutes for the powder.
• Add the sugar, and cook, stirring to dissolve.
• Ms. Shimbo suggests straining this mixture through a sieve, but I neglected this step. Wet the mold and shake out the water. Pour in the gelatin liquid. Let it cool to room temperature, then cover and chill.
• To serve, unmold the gelatin and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine the gelatin, fruit, and peas. Serve in small individual bowls with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Note: I found some delicious-looking red beans in syrup at the Japanese grocery store: oshio kokuto kntoki mame. These are not the “peas in sugar syrup” which Ms. Shimbo describes—I’ve never found them in cans as she describes, but these looked very good. And I was right! They were.
Ms. Shimbo includes the following in her recipe, and it would add a nice texture, but I had just too much fresh fruit:
- 1/4 pound dried apricots
- water to cover them
- 1/4 cup sugar
• Put the apricots into a small pan, and cover with water. Stir in the sugar. Cook the apricots until they are plump but not mushy. Cool in the syrup. Cover and chill. Cut into small pieces to add to the dessert.
I don’t have a big sweet tooth, and the beans I found had lots of sweet syrup so I did not make this, but I suspect many people will like additional syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
• In a small saucepan, combine the above ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a bowl, chill, and cover.
• To serve, unmold the gelatin and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine the gelatin, fruit, canned peas, and syrup. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Serve in small bowls with vanilla ice cream.
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