Raw agar is a gelatinous substance that is primarily derived from the seaweed known as Irish moss. Agar agar, as it is popularly known is a key ingredient in many desserts especially in the South Asian region. In recent decades the use of raw agar has become more wide spread as a solid substrate that has the potential to contain culture medium for microbiological activity.
The derivate of Irish moss is an unbranched polysachharide that functions as a gelling agent. It is extracted from the cell walls of a number of red algae seaweed. Gracilaria and Gelidium along with Irish moss Gelidium amansii are the foremost seaweeds from which raw agar can be extracted.
Multiple uses of raw agar Irish moss
Uses of Raw Agar
The gelling agent can be used in many different applications. When consumed raw agar actually acts like a laxative freeing the bowel movements. It also serves as an excellent vegetarian gelatin substitute. It also serves as a thickener for jellies, ice creams, soups and a host of Japanese desserts. It is also used for paper sized fabrics around the world.
The chemical make up of raw agar is that of a polymer. It is primarily made up of subunits of sugar galactose. The polysaccharides present in agar serve as the primary structural support for the cell walls in the seaweed.
Why is it called agar?
The gelling agent gets its name from the Malay word agar agar which translates as jelly. The same substance is known as china grass, kanten and Japanese isinglass. The different species of seaweed including Irish moss, from which this substance is derived are sometimes referred to as Ceylon moss.
Raw agar is known as agar-agar in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Japanese most commonly refer to it as kanten. The word translates as cold weather and the reason why it is used for agar is because it is harvested during the winter season. Other cultures call it the ocean vegetable or the vegetable swiftlet.
Raw agar is white in color and is of a semi-translucent color. Today it is readily available in the market in the powdered form as well as dried strips. The use of raw agar has now become widespread as people over the world make puddings, custards and jellies using this substance. Raw agar jelly is made much in the same way as regular jelly by boiling it in water and adding the sweeteners and then leaving to set. One can make various desserts by adding fruits and pouring the liquid into different molds.
Around 80% of the substance is actually fiber, which is the reason why it serves as an excellent intestinal regulator. The kanten diet, which happens to be a popular Asian diet is centered around the consumption of raw agar. Apparently agar expands in size when digested which makes the individual feel full while consuming less.
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