Dried Rose Agar-agar – a delightedly sweet and fragrant rose scented crystallized jelly usually served during the Chinese New Year. A treat from yesteryear!
In celebrating our Website’s 5th Anniversary, I received some feedback from our readers on how Malaysian Chinese Kitchen has become a treasure trove of lost recipes from their childhoods in Malaysia. This conversation also triggered my own re-collection of things that I once ate as a child but have not encountered since. One treat that suddenly struck me out of the blue was Dried Rose Agar-agar.
Vague Memories of Dried Rose Agar-agar
The last time I had this treat was in elementary school decades ago during Chinese New Year. Paul does not recall Dried Agar-agar being made in his home for Chinese New Year. I vaguely remember seeing the agar-agar shapes being dried in the sun in front of some neighbor’s front yard.
Dried Rose Agar-agar – a Treat from Yesteryear
I started doing my own quick “research” on this elusive treat. In a conversation I once had with my Mom and late aunt, they did mention boiling the agar-agar mixture with bits of eggshell before straining them out. Apparently, this helped in the hardening and crystallization process. This candy was once common during festivities before refrigeration. In order to make the agar-agar last the season, the drying process made it possible to have sweets for the kids.
Reasons for Its Disappearance
The other possible reason for the disappearance of Dried Agar-Agar was the availability of crystallized fruit jelly. From the mid-1960’s onward, sundry shops starting selling them in all kinds of shapes, colors, and flavors. The transition of Malaysian society to urban life in apartments now ensure that very few people have the yard space or time to make traditional Sun Dried Agar-Agar.
The two most common flavors that I remember this treat being made in were rose and pandan. The pink rose-flavored agar-agar is still a mainstay in any Malaysian party spread, and so I will start with that flavor. Currently, I am drying an orange flavored version which I will shared soon.
Modern Method Using a Dehydrator
To help bring this recipe into the 21st century, I wanted to use the “Dehydrate” setting in my Thermador wall oven. This allows me to dry the agar-agar safely and effectively in the winter. Other makes of ovens may not have this setting. Another option is to get a small Countertop Digital Food Dehydrator that is fairly affordable.
Homemade Dried Fruits for Chinese New Year Candy Box
My Thermador wall oven has a huge capacity. I figured I should make it worth the while to turn on the oven for between 8 to 10 hours. Drying some fruits to put together a healthier Chinese New Year Candy Box was the justification. Please click on this link for my Dried Fruits in Oven recipe.
Similar Products Used in Making This Dried Rose Agar-agar
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- 2½ cups water (600ml)
- ¾ cup sugar (160g)**
- 1 packet agar-agar powder (2 tbsp/12g)
- 1 tsp rose essence
- A few drops red food coloring
- Combine water, sugar, agar-agar powder, rose essence, and red food coloring in a medium saucepan.
- Place saucepan on the stove on medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar and agar-agar powder dissolve.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Give it a good stir. Turn off stove.
- Pour agar-agar mixture into a 7 in x 5 inch tray. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
- Transfer to the refrigerator and allow agar-agar jelly to set for 1 hour.
- Unmold agar-agar jelly and cut into 1 in x ½ in thick pieces using a crinkle cutter.
- Arrange pieces of agar-agar jelly on a 15 in x 10 in wire rack.
- Turn on the oven to dehydrate mode and preheat oven to 140°F (60°C).
- Transfer the rack of agar-agar jelly into the oven.
- Let the pieces of agar-agar jelly dry for 9 to 11 hours. The duration will depend on the thickness of the agar-agar jelly.***
- Remove from oven and place into air tight containers.
I was delighted that the family enjoyed this simple to make treat very much. It is not so sweet because as always, I use as little sugar as I can get away with. As such, the texture is more like gummy fruit. After a day, I can see a whitish layer of sugar crystals forming. The texture is also becoming a little sandy which is how it should be. Simply delightful!