When I was a kid, my mom used to make almond Jell-O, a traditional Taiwanese dessert. She would add almond extract and milk to plain Knox Gelatin, chill it until it set, cut it into cubes, and serve it with ice and canned fruit cocktail. Last time I went to Taiwan, this refreshing dessert was everywhere.
I once tried making a dairy-free version by using almond milk instead of cow’s milk. You’d think that would work, right? But it didn’t. The almond milk didn’t play well with the gelatin and I ended up with a clumpy unappetizing mess.
Shopping at a Bangluck Market Thai grocery store, I came across a mix that looked a lot like my childhood comfort dessert, except that it’s jasmine instead of almond flavored. It contains non-dairy creamer instead of milk (although it isn’t safe for people with milk allergies because of the casein). The name could be better — “agar” makes me think of a petri dish — but the photo on the package sold it.
And it’s easy to make. You simply add the mix to water, boil and stir. I poured the mixture into a wide, shallow dish so that the cubes wouldn’t come out too big when I cut them. I waited for the agar to cool before putting it in the fridge, and then discovered that it had already set at room temperature. Food science, man.
When I added the fruit cocktail, it tasted very much like almond Jell-O… except not almond-y. The jasmine flavor was nice and subtle. If you’re a fan of jasmine tea, you’ll love it. My husband, who doesn’t care for almond Jell-O, actually liked the jasmine much better.
Bangluck Market is full of treasures like this, including Thai chile powder and roasted rice powder — two ingredients necessary to make a proper larb (Thai meat salad) — and some odd snack foods, such as potato chips that tasted like Froot Loops. I highly recommend you stop by the next time you’re in North Hollywood or the Thai Town section of Hollywood Boulevard.
BANGLUCK MARKET, 12980 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
BANGLUCK MARKET, 5170 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027