Agar-agar or agar is a red algae (Gelidium or Gracilaria) of Japanese origin. Discovered in 1658 by Minora Tarazaemon, it is mainly used as a gelling agent, like gelatin. Gelatin however is of animal origin (pork and beef usually).
This natural gelling agent which comes in the form of powder or flakes, gels quickly, as soon as the temperature falls below 100 F, and is a natural substitute for gelatin, without introducing any taste. Agar-gar can dissolve above 180 F.
Depending on the recipes, you can either gel it first and incorporate it in the hot preparation or incorporate it in the hot preparation directly.
Agar-agar has stronger properties than gelatin which requires refrigeration. It is sufficient to leave agar one hour at room temperature. However, it is advisable to keep the dishes gelled with agar in the refrigerator because it is a high protein food. But beware, unlike gelatin of animal origin, agar does not support freezing !
Agar also has a caloric value close to zero: very rich in minerals, it promotes digestion and elimination of toxins. It can find its place in diets.
The advantage of agar is that it is antibacterial so microbes can not develop there, so it can keep longer in preparations.
In the food industry, it is widely used as an additive in ice cream and candy under the name E406.
Approximate conversions for gelatin / agar
1 teaspoon agar = 2 grams of agar = 6 grams of gelatin powder = 3 sheets of gelatin
Where can you find agar-agar?
In supermarkets and most specialty grocery stores.