Lately I’ve been obsessed with kanten.
Agar (pronounced /ˈɑːɡər/, “ah-gər“) or agar-agar (/ˈɑːɡərˈɑːɡər/, “ah-gər-ah-gər“) is a gelatinous substance, obtained from algae and discovered in 1658 by Minora Tanzaemon in Japan, where it is called Kanten.
Agar is derived from the polysaccharideagarose, which forms the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae, and which is released on boiling. (Wikipedia)
We got a large squash in our CSA box this week, so I decided to get creative with our Friday night dinner. I decided to try a squash and sriracha kanten recipe for dinner. Here’s how I did it:
1.) I soaked and heated the agar stick, which I bought from my local Asian market (you can also use agar powder). I followed the directions on the side of the package, 1 3/4 c water per stick, brought to a boil until the agar dissolved. I set aside one cup of the clear agar liquid for the sriracha kanten.
2.) I added salt and four cups of the the chopped and seeded squash, a little nutmeg, and a little cinnamon to the agar mixture and boiled until the squash was soft.
3.) Next, I tossed the remaining squash and two big red potatoes in olive oil, salt, and Chinese Five Spice, then put it in the oven to roast. I also julienned several parsnips (also from the CSA box) and set aside to roast when the potatoes and squash finished.
4.) This is where the real fun begins…I took the boiling squash mixture and blended it until it was smooth, put it in a shallow pan and put it in the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour.
6.) I mixed sriratcha sauce into the clear kanten and poured it into another shallow pan to cool.
7.) Last, I plated everything up.
The meal was fun and tasted great. One thing I would’ve done differently would be to let the kanten sit out for thirty minutes or so to come to room temperature. It was a bit cold alongside the warm roasted vegetables.
I think I’ll try a fruity dessert kanten next. How much fun is creative cooking?!
Also by Susana: What Is Carnism?
More squash: Cooking with Spaghetti Squash
Photo: Susana Romatz