My Summer Vegetable Salad comes in a dashi-flavoured jelly, which has a smooth but firm texture. The small pieces of colourful vegetables scattered in the jelly look like little jewels in a glass. It brings coolness to the table.
I decided to post Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly even if half of the globe is in the middle of winter. It might be even snowing outside, but there is no reason why you can’t eat such a refreshing salad in a warm and cosy room.
In most jelly recipes, people use either gelatine or agar (also called agar-agar) as a gelling agent. I used a Japanese equivalent of the gelling agent called ‘kanten’ today.
You can also make Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly using gelatine or agar instead of using kanten. You will just get a different texture and slightly different transparency depending on which product you use.
Kanten, Agar, and Gelatine
Kanten and agar are jelly-like substances made from seaweed, while gelatine is made from animal protein. This is one of the major differences between Kanten/agar and gelatine. So, vegetarians should avoid any food that contains gelatine.
The difference between kanten and agar is the species of the seaweed from which the gelling substances are extracted. Although both are made from seaweed, kanten only contains a gelling agent derived from a specific type of red seaweed, therefore it contains practically no calories at all.
Kanten and agar not only come in the form of powder, but also in a solid form such as a long square cuboid, strings, or flakes. Gelatine can be in a form of powder or a sheet. Those in a solid form need to be soaked in water to soften before dissolving them in hot water.
All three of them present different characteristics as a gelling substance. I tested 4 products to compare the differences – Agar from Singapore, Agar from Thailand, Japanese kanten, McKenzie’s gelatine. Agar and kanten were in powdered form.
Following are the major differences that may affect your decision when picking the right gelling agent for your dish.
Texture and mouthfeel:
Kanten has a firm texture without elasticity. It breaks rather than melts in your mouth. Gelatine has a softer and elastic texture. The texture of agar sits in the middle, between kanten and gelatine.
I tried to depict the texture in the photo below. I took some pieces form each jelly with a spoon. The gelatin jelly on the left crumbled easily. The agar jelly in the middle retained the broken pieces well, but the edges of these pieces are round. In the case of Kanten jelly on the right, you can see the pieces with sharp edges due to the firm texture.
If you simply dissolve each of them in water and chill in a glass, you will see notable differences in the transparency of the jelly. Gelatine will make a very clear jelly, almost transparent, while the seaweed-based jellies are translucent but cloudy.
The degree of translucency of kanten and agar varies depending on the brand of the product. If the clarity of the jelly is important, you should use gelatine.
The solidifying point of gelatine is 15-20°C/59-68°F. Kanten and agar will solidify at around 40°C/104°F, which means that they will start hardening at room temperature.
Interestingly, gelatine can easily melt at body temperature after solidifying. On the other hand, kanten and agar will not melt unless heated to 60-70°C/140-158°F once solidified.
If you want to make a jelly that melts in your mouth, you should use gelatine. If you want to enjoy the texture of the jelly in your mouth, use kanten or agar.
Kanten and agar need to be heated to more than 90°C/194°F to dissolve the gelling substances, but gelatine can be dissolved at 50-60°C/122-140°F.
If you are using kanten or agar, you need to cook it for a couple of minutes before mixing it with other ingredients to solidify. On the other hand, gelatine needs to be dissolved at a lower temperature, usually by placing the container with moistened gelatine in a water bath.
Things to be aware of:
You need to follow the instructions on the pack and measure the right amount of kanten/agar/gelatine needed for a certain volume of liquid. If the liquid is too much, your jelly will be too watery. If the liquid is too little, the jelly will be too hard. However, you need to be aware that the texture of kanten is quite firm by nature even if the ratio is correct.
Kanten may not solidify if you dissolved it in a liquid together with milk or juice containing a strong acidity. You should dissolve kanten first, then add milk or juice to it.
Since the solidifying temperature of kanten and agar are at room temperature, you need to handle heated gelling liquid swiftly. If you need to leave it for a while as you can see in my recipe, you need to keep the kanten/agar liquid warm.
Since gelatine is made from protein, it is not strong against heat, so it will become harder to solidify if heated at high temperature. Adding fresh fruits that contain enzymes that dissolve protein may prevent the gelatine from solidifying. Fruits such as pineapple, kiwi fruits, and papaya needs to be pre-cooked or use canned fruits.
What’s in my Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly
I like the firm texture of kanten so I used powdered kanten today.
- Finely diced carrot, blanched
- Okra, blanched and cut into small pieces
- Fresh baby corn, boiled and cut into small pieces
- Green beans, blanched and cut into small pieces
- Baby tomatoes, skin removed, and halved or quartered depending on the size of your tomatoes
There are many options for summer vegetables, and you don’t have to use the same vegetables as above. But try to pick different colours to make the dish colourful and bright. If you include at least one green, one yellow, and one red vegetable, the dish will look pretty.
In the list below are some vegetables that you may already have.
Green: asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, green peas, green capsicum.
Yellow: yellow capsicum, yellow baby tomatoes, corn kernels.
Red: red capsicum, red cabbage, beetroots.
Dashi Flavoured Jelly Liquid
- Kanten powder
- Dashi stock
- Usukuchi shōyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
Instead of kanten, you can use agar or gelatine. I used light soy sauce because I wanted the jelly to be as light coloured as possible. If you don’t have light soy sauce, you can use normal Japanese soy sauce as an alternative.
How to Make Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly
- Put dashi stock and kanten powder in a pot and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add light soy sauce and salt to the pot, mix well, then let it cool slightly.
- Scatter 1/3 of the vegetable pieces in two serving glasses.
- Pour the warm Dashi Flavoured Jelly liquid into the glasses so it just covers the vegetables.
- Put the glasses in the fridge for 5 minutes to firm the jelly up.
- Scatter the remaining vegetable pieces on top of the vegetables in jelly, then pour the remaining jelly liquid over the vegetables.
- Chill the glasses in the fridge for 20-30 minutes until the jelly solidifies completely.
- Serve in the glass as is, or transfer the vegetable jelly onto a plate, round side up.
I used a cocktail glass to serve the salad today, but you can use a short tumbler glass or a small bowl as an alternative. You can also make salad in a jelly mould and transfer the jelly onto a plate to serve. The photo below is the jelly in a cocktail glass transferred to a plate.
I made jelly in two stages so that the vegetable pieces were evenly scattered in the jelly. If you put everything in the glass and chilled it in one go, the vegetables can stay in the bottom 2/3 of the glass, making a layer of just jelly at the top.
Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly is a lightly flavoured salad. The texture of kanten jelly gives you the impression that you are eating a savoury dessert rather than a salad.
You can keep the salad in the fridge for a few days.
My Summer Vegetables in Jelly comes in a dashi-flavoured jelly. Small pieces of colourful vegetables scattered in the jelly look like little jewels in a glass. It brings coolness to the table.
If you serve it in a small size, you can even serve it as an appetiser. for vegetarian, use vegetarian dashi stock such as konbu dashi.
Total time is long due to the time required to set jelly, but actual time to make the salad in jelly is less than 30 minutes.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 2 baby tomatoes (about 30g/1.1oz)
- 25g/0.9oz carrot diced into 7mm/¼" cubes
- 2 okra (about 25g/0.9oz, 10cm/4" long)
- 2 fresh baby corns (about 30g/1.1oz, note 4)
- 3 green beans (about 25g/0.9oz)
- 2 cocktail glasses (250-300ml/8.4-10.1fl oz capacity, note 5)
Make a small shallow incision at the top of each tomato.
Bring water in a saucepan to a boil and boil the tomatoes for 15 seconds, then transfer them to ice water in a bowl to quickly cool them down.
Peel the skin off and halve or quarter each tomato.
Blanch diced carrots in the same boiling water used for tomatoes for a couple of minutes. Drain and let them cool.
Trim the stem-end of the okra off as per the Instructions – Preparing Vegetables in my recipe Fried Vegetables in Broth, then stab the side of your okra with the tip of a knife.
Boil 500ml water with 1 teaspoon salt (not in Ingredients) in a saucepan (note 6).
Put the okra in the saucepan and blanch them for a minute or so.
Transfer the okra to ice water in a bowl to quickly cool them down. Don't discard the hot water in the pot.
Cut each okra into about 2cm long pieces.
Put the green beans in the boiling water in the saucepan used for okra and blanch them for a minute or two.
Transfer the beans into ice water to quickly cool them down.
Cut each green bean into about 2cm/¾" long pieces.
Put the corns into the boiling water used for beans and boil for a few minutes (note 8).
Drain and let them cool.
Cut each piece of corn into about 2cm/¾" long pieces.
Put dashi stock and kanten powder in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Turn the heat off and let it cool, but no lower than lukewarm temperature.
Scatter 1/3 of each vegetable in the serving glasses (note 9), then pour the jelly liquid over to just to cover the vegetables.
Chill the glasses in the fridge for 5 minutes.
Top up the glasses with the remaining vegetables, scattering them evenly, then pour the remaining liquid over. It should cover the vegetables (note 10).
Chill the glasses in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. You can even leave them overnight.
1. You don’t have to use the same kinds of vegetables. Please see the section What’s in My Summer Vegetable Salad in Jelly, which lists suggested vegetables.
2. Kanten is a gelling substance similar to agar. I used Japanese kanten powder, but you can substitute it with a different form of kanten, agar, or gelatine (see the sample photos of these products in the post).
Each product requires a different amount of water to make the jelly. Follow the instruction on pack of your gelling product. My pack showed that 500ml/16.9fl oz of water was needed to dilute 4g/0.14oz of powder.
3. I used light soy sauce because I wanted the jelly to be as light coloured as possible. If you don't have light soy sauce, you can use normal Japanese soy sauce as an alternative. It does not make a huge difference since the quantity is so small.
4. If you can’t find fresh baby corn, you can use canned baby corn. Although you could eat canned baby corn straight from the tin, it will improve the flavour if you blanch them.
5. Instead of cocktail glasses, you can use short tumbler glasses to serve. Alternatively, use moulds and transfer the jelly onto a plate to serve.
6. If you want, you can use the boiling water used to boil the carrots. Make sure that the ratio of salt is 1% of the volume of water.
7. You can blanch the beans and corn together with the okra. You need to take the vegetables out at the right time since their cooking time varies.
8. If you are using canned baby corn, you only need to blanch for 30 seconds or so.
9. You may want to place the cut side of the okra and corn against the side of the glass so that the pretty patterns can be seen from outside.
10. Even if the vegetables are slightly showing above the surface of the liquid, it is not a problem if you are serving the salad jelly in the glass.
If you are using a mould and vegetables are showing above the surface of the liquid, remove a couple of pieces of vegetables so that the vegetables are submerged in the liquid and the surface of the jelly becomes flat when solidified.
11. Nutrition per serving.
serving: 194g calories: 40kcal fat: 1.2g (2%) saturated fat: 0.3g (1%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 0.2g monounsaturated fat: 0.3g cholesterol: 1.2mg (0%) sodium: 630mg (27%) carbohydrates: 4.5g (2%) dietary fibre: 1.4g (5%) sugar: 1.8g protein: 3.8g vitamin D: 0mcg (0%) calcium: 26mg (2%) iron: 0.4mg (2%) potassium: 335mg (7%)