Agar agar also called as china grass is a jelly like substance that is popularly used as a substitute for gelatin. When mixed wit hot water, it gels at room temperature making it ideal to use in desserts and puddings. We get agar agar easily in India and it goes by the same name in all the major languages like Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. Since it is also colourless and odourless it can be mixed with any food easily. Apart from being a plant based food thickener, it has other health benefits from aiding weight loss to treating constipation.
What is Agar Agar Made From?
Agar agar is a jelly like substance got from red algae. Agar agar is said to have been discovered first in Japan accidentally. Agar agar is mainly obtained from the cell walls of two species of red algae called Tengusa and Oganori.
Initially agar agar was widely used in southeast Asian cuisines as a gelling agent for souffles and custards. And later it began to be used extensively as a medium for growing microbes. It was preferred over other mediums as it has a higher melting temperature. It is also used in other industries like dentistry, farming, immunology and electrochemistry.
Agar Agar Nutrition:
100 grams of agar agar contains around 306 calories, 6 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fiber, 625 mg of calcium, 21 mg of iron, 770 mg of magnesium and 5 mg of zinc. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals like pantothenic acid, potassium, sodium, copper, manganese, choline, folate and selenium.
Types of Agar Agar
Agar agar is available in two forms. The first is agar agar powder which is the easiest to use, we just have to mix it with hot water to melt and set it. The second is agar agar strips which is less concentrated than agar agar powder and you can dissolve it by heating it in a double boiler. Agar agar strip is the most commonly available form in India. I usually get the strip from nearby departmental store for making desserts, it is available very cheap.
Agar Agar Vs Gelatin:
Agar agar is from vegetarian source whereas gelatine is derived from the bones of animals. Gelatin needs refrigeration to set whereas agar agar sets at room temperature. Both have health benefits and are easily available. Both are used in skin care but gelatin based face packs dry firmly than agar agar so it is ideal for removing blackheads and whiteheads than agar agar.