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Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar

Osmanthus flowers and goji berries come together in this light and clean agar agar dessert. It’s easy to make ahead of time, and is a super refreshing treat. Serve it chilled with a spoonful of osmanthus syrup.

Each cube is carefully dotted with sweet goji and fragrant osmathus flowers…

Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar

This dessert is easy to make (especially when you need to prep something in advance). It works well for small and big groups. Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar is a refreshing and clean dessert. It’s also healthy, featuring two essential ingredients in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

If you skip the osmanthus syrup (details in the recipe below), this dessert uses very little sugar. You can also reduce the syrup in the agar agar part of the recipe. The recipe works with zero sugar (it just won’t taste sweet at all…which some people actually prefer).

What Is Agar Agar?

Agar agar as the natural gelatin powder made from an algae extract. I prefer using agar agar over gelatin powder because:

  • Desserts set more firmly (more visually appealing when you slice the set agar agar)
  • Desserts hold shape at room temperature (gelatin can melt/get soft)
  • Agar agar is vegetarian (gelatin powder is made of animal collagen)

I also used agar agar in this recipe post on Strawberry-Haupia Agar Agar (and if you don’t know what haupia is yet, here’s the full post ^_^)

Why Agar Agar Desserts?

My mom and grandma love sweets, but they never made any baked dessert when we were kids (though I do remember using brownie mix to make “brownie cakes” for special occasions). Most of their desserts were either:

  • Chinese sweet soups
  • Vietnamese chè
  • Agar agar sweets

The agar agar desserts were my favorite, especially on a hot day. Sometimes the agar agar would be cut into cubes, chilled in the fridge, and then served on plate for snacking. Other times, the cubes would be spooned into a bowl and topped with a chilled fruit or herbal syrup. On special occasions, the agar agar would be chilled/set in beautiful molds that my aunty carried with her when she moved from Vietnam. They molds would be fish shape, star shape, flower shape…I haven’t seen these molds in years but will try look for them next time I visit her.

Agar agar desserts are so simple but elegant, just really fresh and clean tasting. It makes you feel happy and light!

What Are Osmanthus Flowers?

Fyi, I’ve included affiliate links below. I may earn a small commission (at no cost to you), if you purchase through the links.

Osmanthus flowers are so beautiful, it’s almost hard to stop staring at them. The dried flowers smell very sweet, like honeysuckle and fruits. Brewed osmanthus tea/tisane has many stone fruit flavors, specifically apricot. 

The individual flowers are tiny, tiny. Over a hundred flowers in a single tablespoon.

Osmanthus is most often used to make osmanthus tea (called guìhuāchá). It’s also a popular ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Believed osmanthus health benefits:

  • improving eye sight
  • purifying your blood
  • support clear skin complexion
  • clearing thick mucus from throat
  • overall lung health

There are a few place to buy osmathus flowers online, but I prefer going in person to a local Chinese tea shop (or an herbal/medicine shop) so I can look at the quality of the flowers and taste before purchasing. 

What Are Goji Berries?

Goji berries go by name different names including:

  • Goji (without the “berries” part at the end)
  • Wolfberry
  • Góuqǐ (the Chinese pinyin, this is how I pronounce it when talking with my grandma)

We eat goji berries in both savory and sweet preparations. Like osmanthus, goji is popular in TCM. It’s also use in many Chinese herbal soups, Chinese sweet soups, and even tea! Have you heard of the Chinese Eight Treasures Tea (also called Ba Bao Cha)? Goji is one of the eight treasures (we’ll do a post on this soon).

Goji berries are tiny pink-red berries, and you buy them dried. They look a bit like raisins and have this sweet-tart flavor. You can eat them dry from the bag, but they’re pretty hard and chewy which is why we always rehydrate them in soup or a hot liquid before using. They become soft and sweet, so tender.

Believed goji health benefits include:

  • boost energy levels
  • tons of antioxidants
  • aid in cholesterol reduction
  • prevent liver damage
  • decrease anxiety

Where to buy goji berries? I usually get this Navitas brand, it reliable and good quality. You can also find them in many supermarkets like Whole Foods (don’t forget to check out the special Hawaii-only products while you’re there).

Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar Recipe

Make sure to stick to the ratio of 4 grams agar agar powder to 2 cups of water. Everything else is flexible. You can add more/less of the goji and osmanthus depending how strong you like each flavor.

The amount of sugar is also flexible. I never use more than 2 tablespoons (I don’t like it sweet), but I sometimes use 1 tablespoon or less depending on my mood.

Ingredients

  • 4 grams agar agar powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons osmanthus flowers
  • 2 tablespoons goji berries

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, dissolve 4 grams agar agar powder into 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil for one minute. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, whisk to dissolve.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons osmanthus flowers to the saucepan and let steep over medium heat for three minutes. Add 2 tablespoons goji berries and let steep for another one minute.
  3. Turn off the stove, remove saucepan from heat. Using a small sieve, strain out the mixture into a heatproof container. Set aside the sieve (which should now be holding the osmanthus and goji berries). 
  4. Let the mixture cool for one minute. Then using a pair of chopsticks (or fork or toothpick, whichever is easiest for you), add back in as much of the goji and osmanthus as you like. I tend to add back nearly all the goji and a tiny bit of osmanthus.
  5. Place in the refrigerator and let cool/set for at least two hours.
  6. Remove from refrigerator, cut into cubes and serve chilled with a spoonful of Osmanthus Syrup (instructions below). Enjoy ^_^

Important note:

  • Regarding Step 4: you can add back as little or as much of the goji berries and osmanthus flowers as you want. I like to add back half the goji (so good when you bite into fat, re-hydrated goji berries in the final dessert). But I only a tiny bit of the osmanthus flowers for visual purposes (the flowers themselves are chewy and will interrupt the eating experience). Plus, all the osmanthus flavor has already been fully steeped into the agar agar.

Serving:

  • You can eat the agar agar simply cut into large cubes and chilled. This is common after a big Chinese dinner. The cubes are placed on a plate, and the plate is put in the middle of the table for everyone to take as much as they want. You might also see a dessert offering on dim sum menus.
  • We often serve small cubes in a bowl with a bit of osmanthus syrup poured over the top. This gives the feel of a more “complete” dessert, and people like the moist/wet aspect the syrup offers. And because the syrup is scented with lots of osmanthus, it boosts the osmanthus flavor of the overall dessert. Here’s how to make it…

Osmanthus Syrup

A simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar. To make Osmanthus Syrup, brew a strong cup of osmanthus tea, and use that brew as the water for the syrup. Here’s how to do it

  • Steep 1 tablespoon of osmanthus flowers in 1 cup hot water (200-212F) for three minutes.
  • Strain and discard the osmanthus flowers.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the brewed osmanthus liquid to a boil. Stir in 1 cup sugar.
  • Whisk to dissolve. Remove from heat, let cool, then chill in the fridge.
Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar

Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar

Yield: Dessert for 3

A refreshing and light (you could even say healthy!) dessert featuring goji berries and osmanthus flowers. Easy to make ahead of time, served chilled.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, dissolve 4 grams agar agar powder into 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil for one minute. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, whisk to dissolve.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons osmanthus flowers to the saucepan and let steep over medium heat for three minutes. Add 2 tablespoons goji berries and let steep for another one minute.
  3. Turn off the stove, remove saucepan from heat. Using a small sieve, strain out the mixture into a heatproof container. Set aside the sieve (which should now be holding the osmanthus and goji berries). 
  4. Let the mixture cool for one minute. Then using a pair of chopsticks (or fork or toothpick, whichever is easiest), add back some of the goji and osmanthus flowers to the agar agar. I usually add back half the goji berries and several osmanthus flowers.
  5. Place in the refrigerator and let cool/set for at least two hours.
  6. Remove from refrigerator, cut into cubes and serve chilled with a spoonful of Osmanthus Syrup (instructions in Notes) over the top. Enjoy ^_^

Notes

  • To make the Osmanthus Syrup: steep 1 tablespoon osmanthus flowers in 1 cup hot water (200-212F) for three minutes. Strain out and discard the osmanthus flowers. In a small saucepan, bring the brewed osmanthus to a boil and stir in 1 cup sugar. Whisk to dissolve. Remove from heat, let cool, then chill in the fridge.
  • Regarding Step 4: you can add back as little or as much of the goji berries and osmanthus flowers as you want. I like to add back half the goji (so good when you bite into fat, hydrated goji berries in the final dessert) but only a tiny bit of the osmanthus flowers for visual purposes (the flowers themselves are chewy and will interrupt the eating experience). Plus, all the osmanthus flavor has already been fully steeped into the agar agar.
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