Rau câu is a Vietnamese jello cake that is made out of agar agar, which is a seaweed by product similar to gelatin. It's made out of coconut milk, condensed milk and layers of your favorite flavorings like mocha, vanilla, coconut, banana, chocolate and durian (if you're adventurous!).. It has the same texture of pana cotta.
It's a great alternative for vegetarians who do not want to use animal (usually pork) gelatin in desserts.
Servings: 6 servings
2 (0.88-ounce) package agar agar powder 6 cups coconut milk 2 1/3 cup superfine sugar, to taste 7 1/3 cups cold water 3/4 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk 1 Tbs pandan paste, to taste 1 Tbs mocha paste, to taste
Dissolve the agar agar in water. Pour in a sauce pan then put on the stove over high heat. Constantly stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil then immediately lower to medium heat. Keep stiring for an even, smooth texture.
In a different pot, heat the coconut milk, then combine with the agar agar liquid. Add sugar. Then lower the heat. Divide the mixture into 3 bowls. Pour 4 tablespoons of condensed milk in each bowl. Add the pandan paste in one of the 3 bowls and mocha in the second bowl. Leave the third bowl as it is. Stir until the color is even.
Brush each mold with cold water. Pour the bowl with pandan mixture into the mold to form the first layer. Let it cool about 10 degrees. The oil of the coconut milk will form a skin on top. It wil start to gel. Pour the plain coconut mixture as the second layer when the top is a little sticky to the finger but the liquid hasn't reach a gel consistency. Repeat the same procedure with the mocha mixture. It's crucial that you wait enough time in between each layer so that the layers bind together without mixing with each other.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Unmold the jello cake onto a serving plate. It's delicately flavored. Serve with Vietnamese coffee.
I use the Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, the one with the picture of a white long-bearded old man. You can easily find it in Asian stores, well at least it's very easy to find it in California.
I buy the Koepoe-koepoe pastes. There are rose, mocha and pandan. If you're adventurous, you can also try the durian paste.
I use the AROY-D coconut milk brand. It has no preservatives and it is very convenient, they sell it in 8.5 oz little package (which is about 1 cup)
Superfine sugar is very convenient for desserts. It's also called caster sugar or baker's sugar. It dissolves more quickly than the regular sugar. I usually use it for liquids.
The end product should have a slightly firmer consistency than panna cotta.
Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegans and vegetarians. It is derived from seawood and is cooked the same way you would use gelatin powder. It is widely used in Asia.I also use it to make fruit mousses like my egg-free banana mousse or chestnut mousse. I buy the Thai Telephone Brand, it's sold in 25-gram packages. (F.I.Y 0.88 oz = 25 g)
You can find a lot of pretty flowered shape molds and different sizes that sells for 99 cents at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose. Well, it's not the prettiest. Don't expect to enter an Asian version of Whole Food, but it has all the fresh Vietnamese produce at a very reasonable price. This is one of the best "ethnic" grocerie store in the area.