Asian Recipes/ Dessert/ Recipes/ Snack

Agar Agar Jelly with Coconut – Laotian Vun

24/09/2020

This traditional Agar Agar Jelly from Laos is delicately sweet and flavoured with coconut and pandan essence. Made with agar agar powder instead of gelatin, it’s naturally vegetarian friendly and even sets on the bench rather than in the fridge! Slice into squares for a delicious dessert or portable snack.

Square slices of agar agar jelly stacked up on a plate.

Why We Love This

We first came across agar agar jellies in Laos, where they go by the name of Vun. After a sudden downpour, the streets were sopping, but that didn’t stop the local night market from springing to life at sundown. Stall after stall lined the main road through town, each offering a tasty morsel or two of traditional snacks and desserts.

We tried just about every colourful dessert imaginable on our wandering stroll, including this tasty Lao Pumpkin Coconut Custard. But the agar agar jelly cubes were the cutest treats of the lot!

Not only do they have a delicate sweet and salty coconut flavour going on, they’ve also got a cool visual effect too. Made with plant-based agar powder instead of gelatin, the jelly separates into two distinctly gorgeous layers when cooling. 

Quick Note: Our jelly turned out bright green because our agar agar powder was blended with green food colouring! So a pro-tip is to always check the label on the agar agar packet. Plain agar agar jelly is normally clear/uncoloured. 

Top down view of agar agar jelly with a spoon breaking it into two portions.

What is Agar Agar? 

Agar (sometimes called agar agar) is extracted from a type of Southeast Asian seaweed. It’s a plant-based substitute for gelatin, perfect for vegetarian diets. Agar agar jelly sets more firmly than jelly made with gelatin, and will even set at room temperature – although it should still be stored in the fridge after. Agar is naturally packed with fibre, yet surprisingly has zero carbs, calories, sugar or fat (talk about guilt free!).

What You’ll Need

Below are the key ingredients you’ll need, along with basic staples including an egg, sugar, salt and water.

  • Agar Agar Powder – Look for it in Asian grocers or online. You can substitute with regular jelly/jello powder or powdered gelatin if required – just follow the cooking directions on the packet to make. If using agar agar flakes instead of powder, use the conversion ratio of 1 tsp powder to 1 tbsp flakes.
  • Coconut Milk – We use canned coconut milk with at least 60% coconut extract. Avoid sweetened coconut milk, just use regular plain coconut milk so you are always in control of the sweetness.
  • Pandan Flavouring – We use the popular pasta pandan flavouring. It stores well, and is easy to find at Asian supermarkets or online. It’s a surprisingly versatile little ingredient which you can use for other sweet Asian treats like Klepon (Coconut Rice Cakes) and Dadar Gulung (Rolled Pancakes), or even savoury dishes like Thai Pandan Chicken. If you don’t have any pandan flavouring on hand, you can substitute with regular vanilla essence. 

How to make Agar Agar Jelly:

  1. Start by pouring half your coconut milk into a small mixing bowl. Crack in the egg and give it a really good whisk to incorporate.
  2. Meanwhile heat the water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the agar agar powder and give it a swirl to mix through and dissolve. Slowly pour in the coconut milk and egg mixture and stir. Gently bring to the boil and keep stirring. Then slowly add your remaining coconut milk.
  3. Next, add in the sugar, salt and pandan essence (optional). Taste the mixture, but be careful not to burn your tongue! If it’s not sweet enough, you can add more sugar, or an extra sprinkle of salt or pandan essence til you’re happy with the flavour.
  4. Cook and stir for a few more minutes, then remove from the heat.
  5. Pour the mixture out into a large glass dish (or jelly moulds, if using). Skim any bubbles off the surface so your jelly will set nice and smooth. Allow the jelly cool on your kitchen bench for an hour or so (check out those layers forming!).
  6. Once set, cut the jelly into shapes and serve.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Always check the label on the agar agar packet to make sure it’s 100% pure and doesn’t include extra colour, flavour or sugar. This way you can control the sweetness as well as the colour!

FAQs

My agar agar jelly didn’t set. Why?

There could be a couple of reasons why your jelly doesn’t set:
– Your agar agar flakes or power hadn’t completely dissolved. Make sure it’s melted down completely before adding in the coconut and egg mixture.
– You used citrus-based flavourings. These can interfere with the jelly setting, so it’s best to avoid flavourings or juices such as lemon, lime or pineapple. 

How long does agar agar jelly last?

It will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Variations & Substitutes

  • Agar Agar – If you prefer, you can substitute with the same amount of gelatin. Remember, you’ll need to set the jelly in the fridge as it won’t set at room temperature. 
  • Egg – Leave out the egg to make this as vegetarian jelly, it will still set perfectly.
  • Up the Intensity – Add more sugar or salt for extra deliciousness.
  • Tweak the Flavour – Add a few drops of essence such as vanilla or rose water, coffee, or food dyes for bright colours.
  • Get Creative – Use cookie cutters or silicone jelly moulds for cute shapes like stars or flowers.
  • Make it a Full Dessert – Serve with fresh or canned fruit, fruit pulp or syrup, whipped cream, coconut cream or ice cream for extra deliciousness. Or why not slice it up into super thin strips and use in Chè Ba Màu – Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert!
  • Party Starter – If serving at a party, why not make some condensed milk coconut balls to have alongside them?
Top down view of a stack of coconut jelly slices on a plate.

Want more incredible Asian desserts? Try these:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

A stack of green jelly squares.

Agar Agar Jelly with Coconut – Laotian Vun

This traditional Agar Agar Jelly from Laos is delicately sweet and flavoured with coconut and pandan essence. Made with agar agar powder instead of gelatin, it's naturally vegetarian friendly and even sets on the bench rather than in the fridge! Slice into squares for a delicious dessert or portable snack.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Lao
Servings: 20 squares
Calories: 101kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Start by pouring half your coconut milk into a small mixing bowl. Crack in the egg and give it a really good whisk to incorporate.
  • Meanwhile heat the water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the agar agar and give it a swirl to mix through and dissolve. Slowly pour in the coconut milk and egg mixture and stir. Gently bring to the boil and keep stirring. Then slowly add your remaining coconut milk.
  • Next, add in the sugar, salt and pandan essence (optional). Taste the mixture, but be careful not to burn your tongue! If it's not sweet enough, you can add more sugar, or an extra sprinkle of salt or pandan essence til you're happy with the flavour.
  • Cook and stir for a few more minutes, then remove from the heat.
  • Pour the mixture out into a large glass dish (or jelly moulds, if using). Skim any bubbles off the surface so your jelly will set nice and smooth. Allow the jelly cool on your kitchen bench for an hour or so (check out those layers forming!).
  • Once set, cut the jelly into shapes and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Agar Agar Powder – Look for it in Asian grocers or online. You can substitute using the same amount of regular jelly/jello powder or powdered gelatin if required – just follow the cooking directions on the packet to make. If using agar agar flakes instead of powder, use the conversion ratio of 1 tsp powder to 1 tbsp flakes. Remember, you’ll need to set the jelly in the fridge as it won’t set at room temperature. 
  • Egg – Leave out the egg to make this as vegetarian jelly, it will still set perfectly.
  • Setting the Jelly – Make sure the agar agar flakes or power are completely dissolved before adding in the coconut and egg mixture. Avoid citrus-based flavourings or juices such as lemon, lime or pineapple, which are known to prevent the jelly from setting. 
  • Coconut Milk – We use canned coconut milk with at least 60% coconut extract. Avoid sweetened coconut milk, just use regular plain coconut milk so you are always in control of the sweetness.
  • Pandan Flavouring – We use the popular pasta pandan flavouring. It stores well, and is easy to find at Asian supermarkets or online. It’s a surprisingly versatile little ingredient which you can use for other sweet Asian treats like Klepon (Coconut Rice Cakes) and Dadar Gulung (Rolled Pancakes), or even savoury dishes like Thai Pandan Chicken. If you don’t have any pandan flavouring on hand, you can substitute with regular vanilla essence. 
  • Up the Intensity – Add more sugar or salt for extra deliciousness.
  • Tweak the Flavour – Add a few drops of essence such as vanilla or rose water, coffee, or food dyes for bright colours.
  • Get Creative – Use cookie cutters or silicone jelly moulds for cute shapes like stars or flowers.
  • Make it a Full Dessert – Serve with fresh or canned fruit, fruit pulp or syrup, whipped cream, coconut cream or ice cream for extra deliciousness. Or why not slice it up into super thin strips and use in Chè Ba Màu – Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert!

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Agar Agar Jelly with Coconut – Laotian Vun
Amount per Serving
Calories
101
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
7
g
11
%
Saturated Fat
 
6
g
38
%
Cholesterol
 
8
mg
3
%
Sodium
 
66
mg
3
%
Potassium
 
76
mg
2
%
Carbohydrates
 
9
g
3
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
8
g
9
%
Protein
 
1
g
2
%
Vitamin A
 
10
IU
0
%
Vitamin C
 
0.6
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
9
mg
1
%
Iron
 
0.6
mg
3
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Agar Agar Jelly with Coconut - Laotian Vun

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Mimi
    29/03/2021 at 5:59 pm

    This recipe can be made without the egg too for vegetarians. I used to make this without the pandan at home and it turns out great even without the eggs. 😉

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      31/03/2021 at 9:59 am

      Oh cool to know Mimi, thanks for sharing. We’ll add this to the variations. 😀

  • Reply
    Sharon Chen
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    I haven’t tried cooking an agar agar recipe before. Would definitely try this one 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Have fun Sharon, let us know how you go!

  • Reply
    Beth
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    These are so fun and could be used for some festive holidays like St. Patricks or even Christmas! Great post!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Absolutely! So versatile, especially because they can stand up to being out of the fridge a little longer than regular jelly.

  • Reply
    Veena Azmanov
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    Lovely dessert option for a party. Love the color and the flavor of coconut to making this amazing dessert.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Thanks Veena, they’d be a great conversation starter for sure.

  • Reply
    SHANIKA
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    I’m loving these little Jelly Squares! So perfect for Summer!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Totally! They’d be a great dessert after a summer bbq party! 🙂

  • Reply
    Michelle
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    I had heard of agar agar before but never knew where it came from. Hoping I can try using it soon as this just seems sooooo cool!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Haha it is! It’s amazing the texture difference between agar agar and gelatin too. It’s so fun to experiment with.

  • Reply
    Madeline Wishart
    23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

    How many servings does this recipe make?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/04/2020 at 11:19 am

      Hey Madeline! It kind of depends how you slice them, but we easily filled two glass dishes with the mixture and ended up with around 20 small slices.

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