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Papaya Coconut Milk Jelly | Agar Agar Jelly

A tropical dream manifested in a perfect summer dessert - juicy, sweet, and perfectly ripe papaya meets creamy, tender, and slightly crunchy coconut milk jelly, it's magic at the first bite. This is also a super easy and refreshing recipe to make especially on the hot days, it's refined sugar-free and sweat-free ;)

Papaya and coconut are a match made in heaven to begin with, their flavors pair so well and now with the coconut jelly, there's even more depth in the textures! It deserves the highest compliment for desserts in Asian countries - not too sweet. I'm not kidding, overly sweet treats are not very popular in Asia and having grown up there, I always find most of the cookies, cupcakes, donuts, etc I can buy in the US way too sweet and cloying. But this combo here is a perfect balance and so refreshing, I can eat as much as I want without feeling sickened!

The jelly is made with agar agar, which is a natural substitute for gelatin and made from the cell walls of algae. It is widely used in Asia, in Japan it's Kanten, in China it's used to make Liang Fen, both sweet and savory, and in Southeast Asian countries it's used to make pandan jelly and many other types of jelly desserts. This combination here is definitely inspired by Thai desserts.

A few crucial things you need to know when cooking with agar agar:

1. It needs to be brought to a full boil for it to completely dissolve and later set properly. I strongly recommend always dissolve the agar agar powder in clear water first before you add any colored ingredients, milk, juicy, fruit puree etc just so you can clearly see whether there are still little particles left undissolved;

2. It sets at room-temperature and it sets fast. Unlike gelatin which takes hours to set in the fridge, agar agar jelly starts to solidify and set even at room temperature. Once it's cooled you can of course transfer it to the fridge to further set it, and depending on the size of the mold, it usually only needs about 30 minutes in the fridge. Also, exactly because it sets fast, you need to work fast as well, especially if you're using small individual molds;

3. Agar jelly does not melt at room temperature. This is another big plus, unlike gelatin jelly which melts easily in a warm environment, agar jelly is very stable at room temperature so you can go ahead and make your agar jelly dessert ahead of time for a party and won't have to worry about serving a melted watery mess later. Also as a result of this quality, agar jelly has a slightly different texture than traditional jelly, it's not as jiggly and it's slightly crunchy, which I personally love.

Watch the video for a complete step-by-step visual guide, and if you have any add additional questions you can find me on Instagram and Tiktok.


INGREDIENTS:

1 large papaya

1 teaspoon agar agar powder

1/2 cup water 

1 cup coconut milk from a can

2 tablespoon monk fruit extract, or use sugar


TO MAKE:

- Cut off the stem side of the papaya, scoop out all the seeds and stringy "gut" inside with a small spoon;

- Peel off the skin and stand the papaya up in a bowl, set aside;

- Before you start preparing the jelly liquid, use a measuring cup to fill your papaya with water and see how much liquid you need to fill it up, the size of your papaya affects the amount of the jelly mixture you'll need, adjust the amount as needed;

- In a saucepan, pour in cold water and add the agar agar powder, stir to mix it well before you turn on the heat, if you add agar powder to boiling water it might clump;

- Cook over medium-high heat and keep stirring to prevent the agar powder from setting at the bottom, bring the mixture to a full boil then lower the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes, check the mixture to make sure there are no more particles left undissolved;

- Add in the monk fruit or sugar, slowly pour in the coconut milk, bring to a boil again and keep stirring;

- Skim off any bubbles or foam, and carefully pour the mixture into the papaya;

- Place the stem back on then wrap with cling wraps, you can also secure the lid with a few toothpicks;

- Let it cool down at room temperature for 20 minutes then transfer to the fridge, it should set in 30 minutes to an hour, different papaya sizes may vary in setting time;

- Slice the papaya into quarters and then into 1/2 inch thick slices, serve cold, enjoy!


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