Malaysian Monday 49: Starfruit Konnyaku Jelly (Jell-O)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Monday everyone, hope you’ve had a great weekend.

I’ve got a couple of interesting things for you this Malaysian Monday, and they combine to make a very simple, refreshing dessert.

First up is a Starfruit, also known as Carambola, or Belimbing (in Malay). This tropical fruit is a childhood favourite. It’s an oddly shaped fruit with a waxy skin, and is usually sold when it’s green. This is the under-ripe form, when kept at room temperature it becomes yellowish-green, and then yellow with a tinge of orange through – getting softer and sweeter as it ripens. The fruit can be eaten at any stage, depending on your taste preferences. I like to eat the starfruit while it’s still greeny yellow because I like the crispness and the tart flavour. The fruit bruises quite easily when it’s ripe, and if not handled carefully, will end up with brown nicks and marks on the skin. It’s still perfectly edible.

The flavour is very tricky to describe because it’s so unique. It’s a little bit cool and refreshing like a cucumber, sort of sweet-tart like a green apple, and has a little bit of citrus, kiwifruit and pineapple flavour in there as well.

To serve starfruit, it’s really simple, wash and dry well and slice horizontally to show off the star-shape. Before slicing, we also like to run a vegetable peeler along each star ridge to get rid of the thick skin there, leaving the rest of the skin intact.

While checking out what Wikipedia had to say about this fruit, I found out that it contains a lot of oxalic acid and people with kidney ailments have to be wary of eating it. Starfruit can also interfere with some medication.

Next up, we have some konnyaku jelly powder. I don’t remember seeing this when I was growing up, we ate a lot of agar-agar instead. However, on our recent visit to Malaysia, “konnyaku” was all the rage, there were sweet jelly(jell-o) versions, and savoury noodle versions. These noodles are the so called “miracle” zero-carb noodles you may have seen advertised on the interwebs. The sweet jelly has a really interesting texture, a little bit chewy and firm, while still being jellyish.

I was really intrigued by Konnyaku, and some quick research (aka Wikipedia) showed that Konnyaku is the japanese variation for Konjac, which is a plant of the genus Amorphophallus . And if you check out that stub, you’ll find that the word Amorpho is ancient greek for without form/misshapen and we all know what phallus means ;P. My, the things we learn without even trying!

I had a couple of different packets of konnyaku powder to try, one contained pre-mixed sugar and I used this packet first as I want to experiment further with the other ones. The ingredient list on the premixed packet read : sugar, jelly powder, malic acid, but I think it wasn’t complete.

When I checked the other packets, from a different brand, they read: Carrageenan, Vegetable Gum, Konnyaku Powder. More and more interesting! I knew that Carageenan is derived from red algae, and I always assumed it was similar to agar-agar.  Apparently not. For the science geeks : “Its major differences from carrageenans are the presence of L-3,6-anhydro-α-galactopyranose rather than D-3,6-anhydro-α-galactopyranose units and the lack of sulfate groups.”

I peeled this off the side of the pan after I'd made the jelly. It's stretchy!

Anyhoo, I made some jelly, and popped some starfruit in. Very pretty, and I love the texture. Be careful though, it doesn’t dissolve on the tongue like gelatin and can be a choking hazard for kids.

To make konnyaku jelly, it’s pretty simple. Just follow the steps on the packet which involved boiling water and adding the contents of the packet, plus a drop or two of essence for flavour. I added some orange blossome water. I set them in a muffin tray, and unlike gelatin, they set at room temperature, and very, very quickly in the fridge. Best served chilled.

And guess what? We have a new host for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #3. Nate and Annie from House of Annie have voluteerd to host for the month of September. To submit your entry, visit this link on their site, they’ve set up a simple form (how organised!) that you can use.

Sorry for the extremely lengthy post, have a great start to the week. Oh, and to my Malaysian friends who will be celebrating Hari Raya, "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!"


makcikmanggis said...

oh cantiknya ..sekali pandang nampak seperti buah belimbing tu dalam bekas plastik ,rupanya dalam jelly...yum yum:)

Barbara Bakes said...

Such an interesting post. I learned so much. They definitely are pretty!

Hungry Dog said...

I've had starfruit once or twice--in Hawaii, I think. I liked it. It's also very pretty!

Barbara said...

Starfruit is so pretty...I use it often in presentations and in fruit salads. I must confess I never cared much for the taste though.
Your description of Konnyaku Jelly is fascinating, Shaz. It looks like jello, but from what you say, it doesn't melt in your mouth like jello. So it must be chewy. It sure looks lovely with the fruit in it; I've made some dishes like this, but used gelatin, which does melt like jello.

Jamie said...

Really interesting but the fruit in gelée is stunning!

shaz said...

makcikmanggis - terima kasih :) Nampak macam plastic kan?

Barbara Bakes - thanks, we liked the texture too.

Hungry Dog - it's pretty but also looks quite fake desont' it? MC Senior kept picking it up to feel it, she thought it was plastic!

Barbara - actually I'm not surprised, starfruit and a lot of tart tropical fruit have a sort of earthiness that some would find unappealing.I think it's a matter of growing up wiht it. The jelly is really quite interestingly textured, definitely chewy, when you bite it, you can see your toothmarks in it :)

Jamie - thank you dear :)

Kirbie said...

Oh how pretty! I only wish there was starfruit at my local asian market now so I could make this. I haven't seen any startfruit sold at my local asian supermarket this year yet.

Juliana said...

Oh! I love starfruit...and your dessert with konjac look so pretty and refreshing...

Anh said...

I love star fruits. We used to have a tree when I was smaller!

And how great looking are those jellies!

adriene said...

i love konyaku. it's sold in packets at supermarkets in japan. or made fresh at some shops.

a japanese man told me he went from 80 to 50 on a konyaku diet.

grace said...

what a fun thing to make with a fun fruit! sadly, though, 'tis a fun fruit that i've never seen. sigh. :)

shaz said...

kirbie - it's spring here at the moment, and I think these come from Queensland where it's tropical. Hopefully you find some soon :)

Juliana - thank you, ya, a starfruit fan!

Anh - yay, another starfruit fan. I like how clear the jellie's look. Agar doesn't set so clear.

adriene - I'd quite happily eat the sweet konyaku everyday :)

grace - thank you. Hopefully you'll get a chance to try it one day?

3 hungry tummies said...

They are very pretty! I sometimes buy the ready made jelly from the Asian grocer, perhaps time to make some.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

Ohhh, verrry pretty!

The belimbing that we find here in Sarawak are completely different fruit - red skin with white flesh and a pit in the middle.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

So pretty! Starfruits are divine.



Cheah said...

Gosh, I like this chewy jelly,but find it a bit difficult to digest. Yours look so tempting especially in our hot, humid weather!