Finally, summer is here in the Bay Area! The unseasonably cold (and rainy) weather has finally gone away, and it’s suddenly gone from January to June. What better way to cool off than with a cold creamy bowl of… almond jello.
Really. Give it a chance. Also known as Almond Float in some Chinese restaurants, this creamy, lightly sweet dessert is about as appealing as Asian desserts can get to the untrained palate. The real litmus test of a true Asian food eater is the — limited– dessert menu. My husband, who likes most home-style Chinese food (and if he doesn’t like it, graciously eats it anyway) draws the line at Asian jelly desserts.
Perhaps I am just genetically predisposed to gelled desserts. After all, my grandfather was a Professor of Food Science at Taiwan National University. His specialty? The study of grass jelly. One summer, when my grandparents came for an extended visit (yes, same as the Summer of Potato Salad), my grandfather would come home from the Chinese market with these long bundles of tan, fibrous looking stuff.
“Agar agar!” he proclaimed.
He went on to explain how agar, a form of seaweed was used as a natural, vegetarian form of gelatin. Only it was kind of hard to use. It came in long sheets, which needed to be dissolved in boiling water. I never knew if there were proportions to this, or whether one had to just eyeball the amounts to get the right consistency. When flavored and cooled, the agar mixture would gel into a firmer version of Jell-o, which could be cut into really precise cubes.
Luckily, at most Asian markets you can now find boxes of Agar powder that can be used to make a variety of desserts, just like the familiar Knox gelatin packets. Sometimes there’s even directions. In English, if you’re lucky!
Anyway, on this hot day, I didn’t have a chance to trek to Ranch 99 and just used the Knox that was already in my cabinet. And you can, too, with this easy recipe!
Old School Chinese American Almond Jello
Every Chinese or Taiwanese family made this dessert when I was growing up. It’s easily made with ingredients found at any grocery store: Knox gelatin, almond extract, and canned fruit cocktail (I told you it was Old School!). Some fancier recipes I’ve seen use sweetened condensed milk instead, but this recipe sticks with plain old milk. Stick with 2% or whole milk give it a little bit of creaminess. Bring back old memories or make some new ones with this super easy dessert.
- 1 packet Knox gelatin
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 2 tsp. almond extract
- 1 c. cold milk
- 1 can fruit cocktail
- Bring 1 cup water to a boil, when it is ready pour into a mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it.
- Let sit for a minute, then stir the mixture until all the gelatin is dissolved. Hint: set the bowl over low heat to keep it hot enough to melt all the gelatin.
- Add sugar and almond extract. Stir until dissolved.
- Add cold milk
- Pour liquid mixture into a casserole or baking pan. Bonus points if it is Pyrex or Corningware, and even better if it’s something you can serve the dessert in!
- Refrigerate until firm.
- Cut the gelatin into 1″ cubes and then carefully mix with fruit cocktail and syrup, thinned with cold water to taste. If you really want to get fancy add a couple spoonfuls of Orgeat syrup to the mixture.
If you liked this post, also check out my recipe for Chinese Almond Cookies.
What are your favorite summer Asian desserts? Leave a comment below or send me an email if you have any requests for a future HapaMama recipes!