HOW TO MAKE VIETNAMESE JELLO MOONCAKES | ĐÔNG SƯƠNG TRUNG THU
Jello mooncakes are my alternative to the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes. These jello mooncakes use coconut cream as the outer layer and taro and green tea as the inner filling.
Mooncakes are the representative food for Mid-Autumn Festival. This holiday occurs on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and is probably the second-largest holiday behind Lunar New Year. The moon during Mid-Autumn Festival is the fullest of the year, giving the holiday the nickname Moon Festival. A lot of East Asian families celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by simply gathering together to enjoy the new autumn harvests, light paper lanterns, and eat mooncakes with tea. In Viet Nam, the holiday is also dubbed as “Children’s Day” with festivals happening on the streets, filled with lanterns fairs and lion dance parades.
Whether it’s to eat, give away, or present to the Gods, mooncakes play a huge role during Mid-Autumn Festival and can even be regarded as a delicacy. I will not disagree that mooncakes look beautiful. But they can be an acquired taste for some people. For many years, I would make mooncakes to present to the Gods during Mid-Autumn Festival. But afterward, nobody in my family eats them! My mooncakes always end up becoming gifts to other families.
Then it occurred to me that I should be using the molds for something else—jello! Jello takes the shape of its mold and it is so much easier to make compared to traditional mooncakes. Plus, everyone in the family enjoys jello!
These jello mooncakes use coconut cream as the outer layer. If you’re not a fan of coconut, you can substitute with condensed milk or another white-colored cream/liquid. I used taro and green tea powder (separately) for the fillings, but you can also substitute with whatever flavor you’d prefer. This recipe requires speed—you have to work fast! The agar-agar powder hardens quickly. If you’re not fast enough, the layers will separate.
I purchased the molds off of Amazon—you’ll want to make sure to not get the hand-pressed molds—those will not work for this recipe. You’ll need two sizes for the molds. Everything should work perfectly if the molds for the fillings are smaller than the molds for the outer layer.
- 1 pack of agar-agar powder (25 grams/0.88 oz)
- 1 can of coconut cream (400 ml/14 oz)
- 500 grams (2 cups) sugar
- 1575 ml (7 cups) cold water
- 40 grams (2 full tbsp) purple taro powder or matcha milk tea powder
- 12 8cmx3cm molds (for outer layer)
- 12 6cmx1cm molds (for filling)
- 1 baking tray, enough to fit the 12 filling molds
- Place all the molds on a flat surface such as a tabletop. Place the filling molds in the baking tray.
PREPPING THE POWDERS—
Add purple taro powder to a bowl. Set aside.
In a pot, combine water, coconut cream, sugar and agar-agar powder. Stir well to mix.
Set the agar-agar mixture aside for 20 minutes.
COOKING THE AGAR-AGAR POWDER—
After 20 minutes, move the pot of the agar-agar mixture to the stove. Turn on high heat.
From when the agar-agar mixture is placed on the stove until it boils, make sure you’re continuously stirring the mixture to prevent it from sticking to the base of the pot.
When the agar-agar mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to low settings, continue for another 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.
If your cooktop has a “keep warm” option, turn the heat to that setting. If not, add hot/boiled water to a larger pot, then place the pot of agar-agar mixture into the larger pot to keep the agar-agar mixture warm.
MAKING THE FILLING—
Add 450 ml (2 cups) of the agar-agar mixture into the bowl of purple taro powder.
Continuously stir to prevent the mixture from hardening. Quickly pour the mixture into the molds for fillings.
Add ice water to the tray underneath the molds to help the jello filling harden quickly.
MAKING THE OUTER LAYER—
Before continuing, check if the agar-agar mixture has began to harden. If it has, bring it to another boil before turning the heat back to “keep warm."
Quickly pour 50 ml (almost 1/4 cup) of the agar-agar mixture into the outer molds.
When the agar-agar mixture begins to slightly harden, add a filling to the center of each mold.
Next, pour in enough agar-agar mixture to fill up the rest of the mold.
When finished, wait until the jello hardens and cools down before refrigerating.
Jello is ready to serve after it cools and hardens. For best results, refrigerate overnight before serving.
- If you’re unable to find smaller molds for the fillings, you can use a larger mold and then cut into smaller pieces. The filling should be approximately 1 cm in height.
- The outer layer should be white in color. The recipe uses coconut cream. This can be substituted with any other white-color liquid such as condensed milk.
- The agar-agar mixture should never harden before it’s in the molds. If it does, bring it to a boil to dissolve the mixture.
- When centered, there should be approximately 1 cm between the filling and the outer layer, 2/3 cm at least.
- Before the jello hardens, use a toothpick to get rid of any air bubbles that may appear.