The Japanese enjoy gelatin as much as anyone and this loaf makes a refreshing snack or dessert in the heat of the summer. One of the nicest things about Japanese gelatin is its firmness. It won’t “weep” or lose its shape at room temperature as Western gelatin often does. Many variations are possible, perhaps the simplest being to use prepared orange or apple juice and add well-drained slices of canned mikan (tangerine-like fruit).
Break the strip of agar-agar into
Combine the apricots and water in a saucepan and simmer them until the apricots are soft and the liquid a deep amber color (about 20 minutes). Strain the liquid into a measuring cup, reserving the cooked apricots. Add cold water if necessary to make
Purée the reserved apricots. The Japanese use an uragoshi, and this results in a velvety, thick purée. You can use a blender or food processor if you like, and add the seasoned apricot liquid to obtain the proper consistency for your machine. Strain the purée to remove any skins or fibers.
In a saucepan, combine the purée, shredded agar-agar and reserved apricot liquid if it has not already been added when puréing. Stir over low heat until the agar-agar has melted and all ingredients are well mixed. Pour into a mold (traditionally a rectangular one, called a nagashi-bako) and let it set. It will jell at room temperature but chilling speeds the process a bit. Because this particular loaf is a purée, it takes quite some time to jell firmly—about 1½ hours at room temperature or a little under 1 hour if refrigerated.
Unmold as you would any gelatin preparation, or if using a nagashi-bako lift out the loaf and slice it once lengthwise, then crosswise 5 times, yielding 10 rectangular blocks. A single serving is traditionally
© 1986 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.