when i was a kid, i remember watching my mom stock up on these bricks of jelly-like substance every time we found ourselves in the basement of a japanese depato. they’re called 羊羹 or yokan, and come in a variety of flavors like red bean, green tea, yuzu, et al. i think my mom liked to bring them back as gifts because while heavy and dense, these yokan blocks are relatively compact (about 2x6x1 inches in size), can be stored at room temperature, and sturdy enough to be stuffed into any which nook of one’s luggage. plus, she likes the flavor quite a lot. personally, i think it’s an acquired taste. the texture is denser than jello, and also tends to be a lot less sweet.
i decided to make a yokan terrine for thanksgiving. everyone oooed and ahhed the 3 layers, which consisted of yogurt on the top, followed by matcha and red bean. i don’t think everyone liked the way the yokan terrine tasted, but my mom did. she brought the whole thing home with her and proceeded to eat it the week after thanksgiving, and even asked me for the recipe.
the yokan terrine is very easy to make. the hardest part is probably sourcing agar agar, also known as kanten powder (see box above). agar gar is the firming agent used to bind the liquids together into a solid jelly. it’s made from seaweed and totally vegan (yes, if you got rid of the yogurt portion of my terrine, this would be a 100% vegan dessert). i found kanten powder at my local japanese grocery store. just 50g of the stuff goes for about $12. on the flip side, you only need a little bit to firm up a 5×9 inch terrine.
a few things to note about agar agar (especially if it’s your first time using it):
- you really do need to boil agar agar in order to activate it. the first time i started working with the stuff, i thought it was like gelatin. i dissolved it gently in hot water, and then waited and waited and waited for it to solidify. it remained watery even after 4 hrs in the fridge.
- unlike gelatin, when properly activated agar agar will in fact solidify at room temperature, and in record time too (compared to gelatin). i had a fun time watching it turn from liquid to a wobbly solid in under 15 minutes.
Triple Yokan Terrine
(makes 1 5×9 inch terrine)
|Plain Yogurt||1 cup|
|Agar Agar powder||½ tsp|
|Matcha powder||1 tbsp|
|Agar Agar powder||½ tsp|
|Red Bean Layer|
|Red Beans (azuki)||1 cup either pre-made in a can or dry beans boiled for 1 hour|
|Water||1 ½ cups|
|Agar Agar powder||1 tsp|
- Line terrine container with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Yogurt Layer: put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, let it cool for 1-2 minutes so it doesn’t melt the plastic. Pour about 20% of the boiled solution into the lined terrine container. Wait 2-3 minutes and then pour in the rest. The yogurt layer should begin to set in about 20 minutes. Start the matcha layer, when the yogurt has just begun to set.
- Matcha Layer: same as above. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Wait 1-2 minutes after it has boiled to let it cool slightly. Pour a small amount of the matcha layer on top of the solidified yogurt layer, wait 2-3 minutes and then pour in the rest.
- Red Bean Layer: same as matcha layer.
- When all three layers are complete, let the terrine set at room temperature. Then wrap the whole thing in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours to allow it to further solidify. Well-covered, it will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
- Slice to serve.