Red bean agar with glutinous rice ball 白玉紅豆糕

This is from the Hong Kong-published wagashi recipe book, 日式和菓子, where it is called Shiratama Azuki Mizuyoukan 白玉紅豆糕.

As I was already making glutinous rice balls, I thought it would be convenient to try out this recipe at the same time.

Red bean shiratama agar

50g glutinous rice flour/ shiratamako
45 ml water

These are the quantities given in the recipe for 6-8 balls. My own recipe and tips for glutinous rice balls are here.

Before making the agar-agar, put one cooked glutinous rice ball into each mould. The recipe used small waterproof bags to create unevenly-shaped agar-agar for a unique appearance. However I wasn’t sure about pouring boiling agar-agar liquid into plastic bags so I went for some silicone baking cups instead.

80g red bean paste (already sweetened to taste or omit sugar if desired, my cooking instructions here)
4g agar-agar powder|
240ml water

The instructions in the book say: “Mix agar-agar powder with water in pot. Heat until agar-agar completely dissolves. Add in red bean paste.”

As usual I failed to follow instructions and started by mixing my chunky red bean paste with water, hoping to get a more even red bean liquid. (Yes, I should have used the food processor to make a smooth paste but I already had a disaster earlier in the day when I processed my red bean paste soon after it had been used to for chillies!! Hmmm, spicy red bean paste could be the beginnings of an entirely new food adventure…) So when the agar-agar powder entered the hot water, it immediately clumped up :P and I had to resort to much whisking to try and rectify the problem. Should have learnt my lesson after the water chestnut fritters experience.

In retrospect, I should have put the red bean paste and water in a blender (no chilli taste!) to get a smooth liquid. Then put the agar-agar powder into the room temperature red bean liquid before heating up the whole thing whilst stirring all the time.

Pour the agar-agar liquid into the moulds containing the glutinous rice balls. Put into refrigerator until hardened.

Makes 6 to 8 pieces.

The first thing I would say about this wagashi is – please eat immediately! The glutinous rice ball in the middle was a nice texture contrast to the agar-agar and like a special surprise inside. It was a bit harder than hot glutinous rice balls, but still nice and chewy. Later that day, the glutinous rice balls had turned too dry and hard in the centre whilst remaining gluey on the outside, and this became worse the next day and the day after. Serves me right for making 12 pieces instead of the 6 to 8 in the recipe!

Also, because my red bean was fairly solid, it separated out from the rest of the liquid whilst setting. You can see here the two clearly-demarcated layers. Which isn’t really a problem, simply a point to note; just depends on the effect you are trying to create.

red bean shiratama layers

3 Responses

  1. The nice thing about agar is that while it melts at 100°C you can cool it down to around 50°C before it gets hard again, this is a well known property used in microbiology to add sensitive compounds or living cells to agar plates while liquid but not scalding hot.
    So you can stir your mix untill it reaches a “good” temperature, it will still feel hot to your hand but not unpleasant, then pour in the moulds or bags without fear of melting them, it will set very fast and minimize separation.
    Have fun!

  2. Dear Stefafra,
    Thank you for that wonderful specialist advice! Just the kind of knowledge I want to acquire but which they rarely tell you in cookbooks :).

  3. It was a pleasure to be helpful :-)
    I’m fascinated by all things jelly and by Japanese sweets, they are so beautiful and different from what we have in Europe.
    And I work with agar and agarose a lot in the lab.
    I guess I need to experiment a bit more in the kitchen with it ;-)

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