Is Kanten a New Superfood? Layered Red Bean Jelly Terrine (Mizu Yokan)

Have you heard of Kanten (寒天) before?

Kanten/Agar Agar Powder- new superfood?!

Japanese jelly sweets made out of Kanten are one of my favourite summer desserts. The chilled, light and sweet desserts have been a little oasis for me in the super humid Japanese summer.

Kanten is called Agar Agar in English. Kanten is a jelly-like substance made from a type of sea vegetables called tengusa(テングサ, geldiaceae – a type of red algae). Kanten is commonly used in Japanese cuisine, especially in Japanese sweets.

It sounds very academic…, well, in short Kanten works exactly the same as gelatin.

So why do I think Kanten would be a superfood? There are the reasons:

  1. Vegan Friendly
  2. Full of Fibre (being 80% fibre)
  3. Almost 0 Calories
  4. No Colour (semi-translucent), No Taste, No Smell
  5. Can set at Room Temperature

Kanten is made from sea vegetables – entirely vegan. I would like to say that it is a healthier and more sustainable option than gelatin. It is full of fibre and there are almost no calories in it, which is just perfect for dieters who would still like to taste some sweets, just like me.

It is so easy to deal with as well. Kanten itself has no colour, no taste no smell, therefore you can flavour it as you like. What I actually like it about is that it can set at room temperature. You do not need to worry about your desserts melting down on the table – perfect for summer!

There are 3 types of Kanten – Powder, Sticks and Thread. Powder is the easiest one to use as a substitute of gelatin. Kanten powder can be found in the Japanese food store or the health store.

Layered Red Bean Jelly Terrine (Mizu Yokan) by a littlebitofsoy

It was quite hot in Perth last weekend, so I made this chilled Jelly Terrine using my stocked Anko (Japanese red bean paste). It came out surprisingly good (“you can sell it” said he), so I would like to introduce it here today as my first Kanten recipe.

This automatically becomes 2 layers without any tricks. It looks pretty and you can enjoy both rich Anko and light Jelly at the same time. It is a perfect dessert for this time of the year in my opinion.

You can use store-bought Anko if you do not have time to make your own.

I will try to utilise this superfood more in the kitchen, hoping I can produce my next Kanten recipe soon…

Ingredients (for a small loaf pan 17.5cm x 8.5cm x 6xm): 

250g of Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste)
600ml of Water
4g of Kanten (Agar Agar) Powder
1/2 Tablespoon of Caster Sugar

1. Place water and kanten powder in a small saucepan. Heat it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture while whisking constantly for about 3 minutes. Make sure the kanten powder is dissolved completely.

2. Add caster sugar and continue summering all together while whisking for another 3 minutes, or the caster sugar is dissolved completely.

3. Turn the heat to low and add Anko into the sauce pan slowly. Stir constantly while simmering  for another 2 minutes. Make sure the Anko is combined into the mixture very well. Remove it from the heat. 

4. Line the inside of the loaf pan with plastic wrap (so it will be easier to unfold the jelly terrine later). Pour the mixture into the loaf pan. Once it is cooled down, place it to the fridge. 

5. Once the jelly terrine is chilled, unfold it from the loaf pan and slice to serve. 

My mum’s Recipe : Anko – Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste

My memory of Japanese sweets is my mum’s homemade Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste).  Well…, it is not exactly the anko itself…. It is more like my mum and my sister.

They love anko. They sometimes had this sudden craving for anko (and I do not know why, but this happened always at night), and the next day, my mum would make it. When they ate it, they looked super happy… The homemade anko must have had some sort of magical power to make these 2 powerful Osaka ladies (especially if you know them…, you know what I mean) calm and speechless…

On the other hand, I have never been a big fan of Anko…. Somehow, I felt it was too sweet….That’s why I had never made it before. However, as I became older, I started missing the sweet anko – age does funny thing to humans!

So here it is! I recreated my mum’s happy Anko. As always, she gave me the instructions and tips  (well, of course she does not know the measurement…). I think it is quite good.

Anko Red Bean Paste 1 a little bit of soy

I made Dorayaki (Red Bean Pancake) by using this anko this time. You can use if for anything else – such as Zensai (Sweet Red Bean Soup), Daifuku (mochi rice cake filled with anko), or even western style sweets (cupcakes and pound cakes will be good!).

It takes time to make, but it is easy. Try it when you have time!


220g Azuki Red Beans

1200ml of Water

140g of Caster Sugar

1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt


  1. Soak Azuki red beans overnight (15 – 20 hours).
  2. Rinse the azuki red beans.
  3. Place the azuki red beans and 1200ml water into a big pot. Bring it to the boil. Once it is boiled, turn the heat to low. Skim the scum off the top.  Keep cooking over low heat for about 1 hour or until the azuki red beans become soft and tender.
  4. Add caster sugar and sea salt into the pot. Keep simmering until the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 1 – 1.5 hours.
  5. Once the liquid is evaporated, mix and mash the azuki red beans to the consistency of your liking. Cool it down to use. You can wrap and freeze the anko if you are not planing to use it straight away.

This is Dorataki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake Sandwich). I used this recipe.

Dorayaki_Anko_A little bit of soy