Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mocha N Coconut Milk Agar


When we were young, there were hardly any bakeries and very few people had an oven at home. Birthday cakes were very rare. My mom improvised, influenced by her best friend Mrs Teo (whose daughter Daisy is mom's god-daughter), and she would make agar birthday cakes for us, with matchsticks for candles. If that's not creative!! The flavoring was usually Milo/Ovaltine and sometimes coconut milk.

Another thing we got on our birthdays was a whole boiled chicken drumstick. In those days when people struggled to feed a family, the Chinese way of serving plain-boiled chicken all chopped up into small pieces made sense. I always looked on longingly as mom chopped up the chicken, wishing that she'd leave the drumstick whole like those in cookbooks or the movies but she'd chop, chop, chop! all the way. On our birthdays however, the birthday person gets a whole unchopped drumstick and that really made the birthday person real happy as he/she chomped into the drumstick while the other siblings looked on jealously.I tried to continue this practise with my kids but they all refused to eat a whole drumstick. Like it was poison. This generation is just too well-fed.

And so, on my 40 + x birthday today, I proudly present my mom's agar cake. She can't remember she made these 'cakes' for us (so long ago), but my bros and sis and I had a wonderful time reminiscing about our cakes last night as we got together for a steamboat dinner. Sis insisted that her cakes were plain-clear (think lab agar in petri dishes!) with sugar but me and my younger brother remember brown Ovaltine cakes so we concluded that we were more favored, or mom got more creative :)

You can use Milo, but for this 'cake' I used cocoa and coffee powder.

Mocha N Coconut Milk Agar

2 pkts Swallow Brand white agar powder
850 ml water
1/2 cups white sugar x 2 (minimun is 50 g sugar per 850 ml for those who dislike overly sweet taste)
2 coconuts, grated
3 T cocoa powder
1 T Nescafe instant coffee

1. Put 850 ml of water into a small pot together with 1 packet agar powder and 1/2 cup sugar and set over low heat, stirring all the time till it begins to boil. Remove, add the cocoa and coffee powder, whisk vigorously and strain over a metal sieve into a wet bowl.

2. Let the agar cool and set at room temperature. Do not set in fridge at this point or the two layers will separate later when agar is served.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the coconut milk by adding 1 1/2 cups water to the grated coconut and massage it well. Then squeeze out the milk into a measuring jug with a sieve set over it so that the milk will be devoid of coconut bits. Add another cup of water to the squeezed grated coconut and extract enough milk into the jug to make 850 ml. If you don't get 850 ml, add some water to make up.

4. When the first layer has set about 90 to 95% (when you press the center of the agar, it is almost set but still soft), put the coconut milk into a small pot, add the 1/2 cup sugar and the 2nd packet of agar powder and whisk over a medium fire till the mixture begins to boil.

5. Carefully strain the hot coconut milk mixture over the set cocoa agar, moving over the surface as you pour the hot milk in so that no one spot gets dissolved by the hot milk. Let agar cool totally before putting into fridge to chill.

Note: If the coconut milk layer is not set enough, the hot cocoa agar will dissolve it and seep into it. If too set (as in very cold weather), the layers will not attach well and will separate when it thaws a bit upon serving.


Mandy said...

happy birthday Terri! and thanks for sharing your past birthday memories with us. :)
oh, I must also confess that I am one of those who don't like boiled/steamed drumstick.;p

Greg Wee said...

NEE: Heay happy birthday! many happy returns! just nice. am sending chow chai for you via my mum. she travels to fuzhow via kk today. she will pass to aunty linda. these are the packets ones. just to try out.

Denise said...

WOW! the relections of the matches on the jelly are so beautiful~like TeRRI-The-H0T-mamA! *giggle*


Hong Yi said...

Happy birthday to the best Mama in the whole wide world, and my best friend :)

b said...

Happy Birthday Terri! Wishing you a wonderful day...thanks for sharing the story and receipe of the special cake.

Anonymous said...

angie: happy belated bday terri!! nice recipe, and i love steamed whole drumstick! :P

Hong Yi said...

Was Popo-ice there as u took the pic?

I think I can see her reflection on the agar-cake. She's leaning against the counter, propping her head up with her hands

Anonymous said...

Terri, Blessed Happy Birthday. You have a spirit of excellence, it shows in your writing and cooking skill. With your blog, who needs a cookery book. By the way, of course I remembered those times where we can't wait for our birthdays because we were eagerly waiting for our turn to eat the chicken drumstick. In those days, we have nothing fancy to drink, except milo or ovaltine, so we are very creative, we try to make ice cream ice stick with milo, agar agar milo (sometimes we beat an egg into it), or we even pretended we were eating chocolates but infact we made chocolate bars from milo!!! We cant afford chocolates bars at that time )40 cents per bar in the year 1969. Your friend S. Ng

Shan said...

Hi Terri Happy Birthday!
The cake looks delicious. Great to know that it holds so many memories for you.

Danny said...

Happy 40 + x th birthday!

I think I know what x is :)

Hong Yi said...

i didnt say what x is!

(danny...grrrr...dont get me into trouble now! :P)

Danny said...

i think u gave urself away with the last line, hehe.

CK-II said...

Happy Birthday Terri! I haven't had that pudding since I dunno when. I love those agar-agar! I'm drooling...

Daisy Davis said...

Happy Birthday Terri. YOU are my daily obsession. I drool over your blog just about everyday. Funny how I do not miss M'sian food all those years in Japan yet 1 yr in the States and I crave n miss both Msian and Japanese food. A big bday kiss to Nion Nion for me please. BTW, when r u, da boyz n Yi coming to visit?

Daisy Davis said...

And no, I do not remember mama's agar cake. Seeing your post gave me a vague memory of her making that as dessert for company parties in Japan along with the yellow one which looks more like creme brulee/flan? I really shud hv paid more attention -tho she never used recipes- now all lost..... Ahh hindsight.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

mandy:thanx. so u don't eat hainan chicken rice??

gregwee: how very nice of u! layer cake for my bday would be nice too...thank u

denise: thanx chicky!wah, so sharp-eyed! lucky i can read the first two characters or ur effort've been wasted

yi:i believe u didn't. don't risk ur life telling. n tt's ur dad, not pohpoh!goodness!

b: hey, happy birthday to u too!

angie: thank u!steamed or boiled, it's the best ya?!

sucy: wow, thank u, thank u dear friend...n i truly mean it when i say you are one of the best cooks i know.1969? i think i was too young to remember :D

shan: hey, thanks dear.those were simple days way b4 u know...

ck: thanks. u too had these agar jelly?mom's friend mrs teo is frm kuching, maybe it started frm nieces all loved it too. much more refreshing than cake cake.

danny: before u conclude what 'x' is, consider these possibilities:
a) i was a teenage bride
b) yi is adopted
c) yi is my youngest sister
d) 'x' can be negative

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

hey daisy! was just telling ck about ur ma a few secs ago. u guys were lucky to afford real cakes n agar cakes were just for other occasions. niong niong will grin happily when i tell/kiss her; u r very special to her!kiss ur girls n bob for me too!

Hong Yi said...

i couldnt tell. looks like he's got puffy sleeves from the reflection.

both wear specs and both are very cute :)

Miss you! Gahh...gonna call u now to kacau u

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Terri! Didn't forget your day! Your agar cake looks good, maybe I 'll make one for my next birthday! Btw, thank you for the post on Fried Mifun, we love it. Your friend in Ohio.

Anonymous said...

happy belated birthday. am sure you had a wonderful birthday.

just need to confirm your mocha & coconut agar recipe, the 2nd packet of agar should be added in the coconut mixture right? the cocoa powder and coffee should be in the first agar right? i'm trying this out on sunday. need to bring something for fellowship on MOnday.

meatball online said...

happy belated birthday!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

anon k: thnx! yes, it's time we stop eating cream cakes. this cake only has sugar n agar fibre is good :D

anon: thank u!good thing u pointed out my omission! i've amended the recipe :)

meatball: thanx! :X

Danny said...

d) 'x' can be negative

just to be on the safe side, hehe.

oh, i don't think i had to come to a conclusion of what 'x' is. i know 'x' :)

happy bday anyways. mines not too far away :)

Danny said...

i just realised. are the matchsticks meant to be the candles?

Hong Yi said...

uh oh
u're gonna get into trouble danny, with that question abt the matchsticks being candles :P
read the first paragraph again :P

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

danny: mental lag is not an asset. u still got x wrong.

Danny said...


how about mental delay? i still think i know x.

Hong Yi said...

Don't lie.
You is a Pinocchio.

Danny said...

ohhh ok..

::winks in agreement::

chumpman said...

I'm a big fan of cakes but I am too coward to try baking yet. Thinking to get a pizza instead of regular birthday cake for my parent's birthday later, something in round shape but different. But now, I would like to make this agar birthday cake and hope my parents will be impressed

terri@adailyobsession said...

chumpman: a pizza for a bday cake? tt's quite unusual :)

yes, make this, it's fail proof!

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